Liquor License holders to be held fully accountable for over-serving patrons who drive drunk and injure or kill innocent New Mexicans
Santa Fe, N.M. — Bars and liquor stores who sell alcohol to intoxicated customers can be held fully liable for the harm done by those customers involved in drunk driving accidents with innocent New Mexicans, thanks to a landmark ruling issued in the First Judicial District Court. The Law Office of Brian K. Branch, representing a family whose car was crashed into by a drunk driver whose blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit at the time of the collision, secured the ruling from The Honorable Judge Sarah Singleton, who in response to a Motion filed by Brian K. Branch and Sean P. McAfee on behalf of their clients, ruled the bar who over-served the driver would be held liable for the conduct of their intoxicated customer as well as its own conduct in over-serving him.
Mr. Branch and Mr. McAfee, representing a southeast New Mexico family, had filed their Motion requesting the Defendant liquor licensee be held responsible for the damage caused by its intoxicated customer in addition to the bar’s own negligence under the public policy exception to New Mexico’s Several Liability Act, NMSA 1978, Section 41-3A-1(C)(4) (1987). The Court, upon hearing the Motion and oral argument from Mr. McAfee and defense counsel, agreed with the Plaintiffs and ruled liquor licensees that violate the Liquor Control Act in serving alcohol to intoxicated persons will be held jointly and severally liable for the harm caused to innocent people when their customers drive drunk and cause injury or death.
Judge Singleton specifically ruled that, based on application of the Public Policy exception to the Several Liability Act, joint and several liability shall apply to claims against New Mexico liquor licensees for service of alcohol to intoxicated patrons in violation of § 60-7A-16, who then cause injury to third persons subjecting the licensee to liability pursuant to the provisions of the Dram Shop Act. The practical effect of the ruling is that liquor licensees no longer will no longer be able to escape liability in civil actions filed on behalf of the victims of drunk drivers by laying off blame on the intoxicated individual to whom they sold alcohol.
The ruling secured by The Law Office of Brian K. Branch represents another important battle won in the ongoing war against drunk driving in New Mexico.