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Drinking and Driving: Who is Responsible and When? The law expands to Convenience Stores in Georgia ~ Part 1

In a follow up to the my recent blog post regarding a parent being liable for the act of a child as well as the potential of a parent being liable for act of their children’s friends in drunk driving accidents this brings me to the very important topic of legal liability by the intoxicated person as well as the person and/or establishment who sold, sponsored, furnished or served the alcohol to the person who ultimately caused the accident. In Georgia, and in Canton, GA, the legal alcohol limit is, I quote from, “GA. Code 40-6-391 Prohibition on driving under influence of alcohol, drugs, or other named substances; standards; punishments (Georgia Code (2013 Edition)) (5) The person’s alcohol concentration is 0.08 grams or more at any time within three hours after such driving or being in actual physical control from alcohol consumed before such driving or being in actual physical control ended…” HISTORY: Code 1981, § 51-1-40, enacted by Ga. L. 1988, p. 1692, § 1.

As the Holidays are fast approaching we are invited to many parties of friends, colleagues, work related events, family events, and we go out to eat and may drink on more than one occasion at any of these events as well. Alcohol effects each of us in different ways and what makes one person at or over the legal limit can vary from one person to the next. There are many precautions that we can take to avoid taking the unnecessary risk of drinking and driving. One of the best of which is to not drink and drive at all. The other is to designate a sober driver, give our business to establishments that offer free nonalcoholic beverages to the designated driver, take a cab, stay in a hotel room where the event is sponsored, and many other non-drinking and driving alternatives. The key here is to never get behind the wheel or allow another person to get behind the wheel who has been drinking at all. Numerous research studies have proven that drinking and driving even in the lowest amounts and over extended periods of time with no drinking in between in an evening can still cause a person to be over the legal drinking and driving limit, slow reflexes, and cause dangerous and sometimes deadly situations.

In my Consumer Safety, Fall 2013, Legal Matters Newsletter, the first Article is titled, “Businesses may be liable for injuries even if someone was drinking,” The Article explains in detail several cases from Iowa, Denver, New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania that explain time and time again the perils of drinking in several scenarios. When a business is held liable for the drunk activities of a patron it is commonly known as the Dram Shop Act. The Dram Shop Act as it is commonly referred to in the law is covered in detail in Georgia under the Official Code of Georgia Section 51-1-40. One of the leading recent cases in Georgia that expands and addresses the Dram Shop Act is, FLORES et. al. v. EXPREZIT! STORES 98-GEORGIA, LLC, et. al., No. S10G1652, Supreme Court of Georgia, July 5, 2011, 289 Ga. 466, 713 S.E.2d 368, 11 FCDR 2065. The facts of this case involved a motor vehicle accident in which six people were killed and several were injured. What makes the case of Flores et. al. so interesting is that approximately four hours before the collision, the driver of one of the vehicles, Billy Joe Grundell, drove with a passenger to a convenience store where by Grundell was noticeably intoxicated when he entered the store and purchased a 12-pack of beer. Then, Grundell and his passenger drove off and consumed the beer. Later, Grundell crossed the centerline of a highway and ran head-on into a van going the opposite way. At that time, Grundell’s blood alcohol concentration was 0.181 grams per 100 milliliters, twice the legal limit. Flores et. al. brought suit against the convenience store, Exprezit! Stores 98-Georgia, LLC, et. al. and the trial court awarded summary judgment to Exprezit! and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the dram shop act does not apply under any circumstances to the sale of closed or packaged alcoholic beverages not intended for consumption on the premises (emphasis mine). The Plaintiff’s appealed the decision to the Georgia Supreme Court.

I will continue this discussion about how the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in my next blog post so stay tuned!

We are experts in this matter, and if you or a loved one have ever been involved in an accident of this or any other sort in any way, then please kindly feel free to Contact Us directly at 770-865-8654 or (813) 363-6664. Nobody should ever suffer from the negligence of another without just compensation; never. Please be safe this holiday season from Julie A. Rice, Attorney at Law, & Affiliates.