Fatal Drunken Driving Case Against Alehouse Goes to Maryland Court of Appeals

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A case being heard in court this week could change laws in Maryland and hold businesses and owners responsible if they serve someone too much alcohol. News4's Derrick Ward reports.

    The Maryland Court of Appeals will take up a controversial drunken driving case Tuesday. It could make businesses liable for serving customers too much alcohol.

    The man who is serving time for the 2008 crash that killed a 10-year-old had 17 beers and three whiskey shots at the Dogfish Head Alehouse in Gaithersburg that night.

    The victim's family is seeking more than $3 million in damages from the restaurant and bar.

    "I feel the bar was the one that loaded the gun,” said the Rev. William Warr, grandfather of the 10-year-old victim,” Jazimen. “They did not stop him. They did not say, 'We're going to call the police. Give me your keys.' They didn't do anything."

    Jazimen was in a Jeep Cherokee with her sister, grandparents and family dog when they were rear-ended on Interstate 270 by a vehicle driven by Michael Eaton. Eaton's vehicle was travelling about 90 mph, investigators said. The dog also died, and the rest of the family members suffered injured. Eaton fled the scene but was arrested later.

    Attorney Andy Bederman says Eaton should never had been allowed to drive away from the establishment. He plans to argue that the alehouse bears some responsibility for the crash and the death and injuries that resulted.

    “This case is the poster child for changing the law so that taverns, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol can be held responsible and this can be a disincentive to gross intoxication," he said.

    The Warrs’ attorney said that in the past, the courts have not ruled favorably for those trying to sue an establishment in this kind of case, but he said in the years that have passed since the last case, the causation laws in Maryland have changed somewhat, and he thinks they have a better chance now.

    Bederman said 45 states have so-called "dram house laws" that allow for bars being held liable.

    Management at the alehouse would not comment on the case.