You may recall the terrible automobile crash on New Year’s Day in 2012 that resulted in the death of a child. A repeat DUI offender who was already drunk when he was served more drinks at a Columbia bar rammed his Jeep at 60 mph into the car carrying six-year-old Emma Longstreet, killing her on the family’s way to church.
While the drunk driver’s case was decided a while back—he is serving a 10-year sentence for felony DUI involving death—recently the case against the bar which served the driver was resolved. A Richland County jury, after eight hours of deliberations, socked the Loose Cockaboose Sports Bar with a $3.85 million negligence verdict. The bar was found both to have served alcohol after the state-mandated closing time and to have served alcohol to the driver when he was already clearly intoxicated.
Dram Shop Law in South Carolina
The case against the sports bar was partially a dram shop case. In general, dram shop laws determine liability for alcohol-selling establishments that serve customers who are already visibly inebriated, when those customers proceed to cause injury or death to others.
South Carolina permits dram shop cases but has no specific dram shop law. What our state does have is a statute that prohibits selling alcohol to already-intoxicated persons, dictating that responsibility for not serving an inebriated patron falls squarely on the alcohol-seller. Because of Section 61-6-2220 of the South Carolina Code, injury cases can be brought when an “overserved” customer causes harm to others.
It’s worth contemplating that South Carolina owns the worst death rate due to drunk driving, with 44 percent of all traffic deaths attributable to alcohol. The national average is 31 percent.
One Positive That Arose from the Tragedy
After the accident, many worked to get Emma’s Law passed, and it went into effect October 1, 2014. The law expanded drunk driving penalties for those convicted with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level above 0.15 percent, which is almost twice the legal limit—.08 BAC—for driving drunk.
One of the key provisions of Emma’s Law requires that an interlock device be connected to the car’s ignition when a first-time drunk driver pleads guilty, or is convicted, with a BAC of .15 or higher. If they want to start their car, they must blow into the device and register a BAC of .02 or lower. The ignition lock stays on the car for six months for a first offense. A second DUI conviction, regardless of BAC, requires that the device remain installed for two years. Ignition interlock devices are now used in 35 states and have been proven to lower the number of fatalities caused by drunk driving accidents.
We at the Louthian Law Firm have zero tolerance for those who would drive drunk, and for those who would serve the already-drunk. It is our hope that the $3.85 million judgment will trigger second thoughts in those who might consider serving the already intoxicated.
When life goes wrong, we fight for what’s right.
When you or someone you love gets hurt or suffers a loss, it can feel like nothing will ever be right or fair again. If a DUI-related accident has caused your anguish, contact the South Carolina drunk driving accident lawyers who will do everything possible to get you the settlement you deserve. At the Louthian Law Firm, our dedicated lawyers will do everything it takes to compile a compelling case on your behalf. We’ll visit the scene of the accident, interview witnesses and experts, and collect medical records. Throughout the process, we will keep you informed.
For a confidential case evaluation, call us at (803) 454-1200. Louthian Law Firm. Seeking truth and securing justice for hardworking people and families since 1959.