Mourning coupleThis is the next post in our series on the handling of Minnesota wrongful death cases. Our last article discussed how comparative fault applies to matters involving a wrongful death. It is important to understand that surviving family members can still receive compensation even if the victim was partially at fault. Disputes over fault can be quite complicated, so it is important that you retain an experienced personal injury attorney to handle such matters. In this post we will discuss issues that arise in cases where the victim was killed by a drunk driver. If your family requires assistance, contact us today to speak with a Rochester lawyer. We also handle matters in Owatonna and elsewhere.

Minnesota, like some other states, has adopted the concept of “dram shop” liability. This means that the seller of alcohol may be responsible for any injuries caused by an intoxicated person to whom he or she sold liquor. To establish that a seller is responsible for an accident, it must be shown that the seller sold the alcohol illegally, that the sale contributed to the wrongdoer’s intoxication, and that the intoxication was the cause of the victim’s injuries. Under our state’s laws, a sale of alcohol is illegal if an individual or establishment sold the beverage to an obviously intoxicated person. Minn. Stat. 340A.502. If a bar or restaurant sold the alcohol, you may sue the establishment as well as the bartender, since employers are considered responsible for the acts of their employees.

Say, for example, that a bartender sells beer to a man who has been drinking at an establishment for hours and is obviously intoxicated. After consuming the beer, the man starts driving home and passes out at the wheel. If the intoxicated man causes a death by crashing into another person or vehicle, the bar itself is liable for the tragedy. In this hypothetical situation, the bartender sold beer to someone who was visibly drunk, the additional alcohol contributed to the driver passing out, and the driver’s unconscious state caused the accident.* Such facts lead to a case against the driver, the bartender, and the owner of the bar. Dram Shop liability is complicated. Whether or not an establishment is liable always depends on the specific facts of a case.

If a loved one has been killed by a drunk driver, there may be multiple defendants involved. It is important to retain a wrongful death lawyer experienced in handling such matters. We have handled such cases successfully, including a $15 million verdict in a 2016 Olmsted County Dram Shop trial. Contact our office today to speak with an attorney.

We also serve the following southeast Minnesota cities: Red Wing, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna, as well as the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. We also serve the Iowa cities of Mason City, Charles City, Osage, Spencer, Garner, Forest City, and Northwood and the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Viroqua, River Falls, Ellsworth, Whitehall, and Black River Falls.

*A note about language:

Federal agencies involved in traffic safety have banned use of the word “accident” for more than 20 years, and with good reason. However, we use the word “accident” on our website, even though we know it has implications that run contrary to our professional thinking and training, because we recognize that “accident” is the word most commonly used in online searches when people are looking for help after being injured in a crash. If you’d like more information about this topic, please see our blog, “Car Accident or Car Crash?”