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  1. #1
    Musicaholic Forums Moderator ForeverAutumn's Avatar
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    Should bars be charged when patrons drive drunk?

    Last summer, four men, all above the legal drinking age, got drunk in a bar and then three were killed when they ran the car off the road and into a river, the fourth man was in the car but survived the accident. Yesterday, 34 criminal charges were laid against the bar and it's employees.

    According to the news article, the bar bill for the four men had 31 drinks on it. But there was no mention of any drunk or disorderly conduct in the bar. There was also no mention of over how long a period they consumed the drinks.

    What's your opinion? Should the bar and employees be held responsible for this accident and the three deaths?

    The full article is here.

  2. #2
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Although I understand why it's done, I'm a firm believer that no one should be held responsible for someone else's actions. Should the bartender stop serving drinks to someone who claims to have a friend picking them up who really doesn't? Maybe all bars should take everyone's car keys at the door and not give them back until they pass a breathalyzer test. In the end, I feel the person who drinks and then drives is the person at fault. No one else forced them.
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  3. #3
    Rep points are my LIFE!! Groundbeef's Avatar
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    Unless the bartender loaded them into the car, started it, and pushed the gas...it's a tough call.

    Who can judge who is drunk if they are not exhibiting signs of visible intoxication? It is a quandry as to how to address the situation.
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    Sure, sure... Auricauricle's Avatar
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    Without gettin' into it hot and heavy, I would say that while the onus of blame should go to the driver, bar personnel should take some of the hit when the blame is doled out. I kind of compare the whole thing to gun-purchasing, when sellers are obligated to do a criminal background check and give the (handgun) buyer a three day wait before purchase. In the bar, breath-a-lyzer tests should be administered and keys retained or passed to a "sober" person. If the "drunk" person turns ornery, law enforcement can be involved (as Flower-Bug suggested (heh, heh...).

  5. #5
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Auri nailed it. The driver is "most" responsible, nobody questions that, but the bar has an absolute duty of care to the public to prevent its patrons from driving drunk, and cannot serve alcohol to intoxicated people. Especially under the liquor control laws in that jurisdiction, which every bar ought to know, is legally required to know, and must comply with as a condition of their license. Owning and operating a bar is a privilege, not a right, and it comes with this requirement - know the laws of the jurisdiction and maintain perfection, or suffer the penalties for non-compliance.

    Even if you don't agree with the law, respect that once it became law, anyone operating a bar has explicitly agreed to compliance.

    Public protection is the principle here. Nobody forces anyone to open a bar, get licensed, etc. That's a choice. And personally speaking, from working with liquor control in the past in Canada and the US, I find it hard to believe any bar could operate not being aware of this requirement.

    Anyway, they're not absolving the driver of any wrong doing, just attempting to distribute justice accordingly.

    I have mixed feelings about the "fairness" of the law - I tend to agree with the earlier comments about personal accountability, but most democratic, law-based countries recognize duty of care owed where harm is foreseeable or some such legalese...I think this is the basis for the charges, and I don't think it's unreasonable.

  6. #6
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Maybe we should make the auto manufacturer responsible for making a car that can go so fast. Why stop there. Let's make the auto workers responsible too. How about the auto unions? Why should they get off? Oh, and how about the brewery that made the beer? And their distributors too.
    Sorry, I don't buy it. Joe Shmo is in charge of Joe Shmo. No one else.
    I know they (law makers) are trying to save lives, but they go too far in making one person responsible for another.
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  7. #7
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Auri nailed it. The driver is "most" responsible, nobody questions that, but the bar has an absolute duty of care to the public to prevent its patrons from driving drunk, and cannot serve alcohol to intoxicated people. Especially under the liquor control laws in that jurisdiction, which every bar ought to know, is legally required to know, and must comply with as a condition of their license. Owning and operating a bar is a privilege, not a right, and it comes with this requirement - know the laws of the jurisdiction and maintain perfection, or suffer the penalties for non-compliance.

    Even if you don't agree with the law, respect that once it became law, anyone operating a bar has explicitly agreed to compliance.

    Public protection is the principle here. Nobody forces anyone to open a bar, get licensed, etc. That's a choice. And personally speaking, from working with liquor control in the past in Canada and the US, I find it hard to believe any bar could operate not being aware of this requirement.

    It's just as guilty for serving drinks to minors who lie about their age. They're not absolving the driver of any wrong doing, just attempting to distribute justice accordingly.
    It's not just bars that are held responsible. Say you have a party and your buddy Joe drinks his butt off, but his wife who doesn't drink is the driver. Then when it's time to leave, wifey is too tired or doesn't feel well, and Joe gets behind the wheel and kills someone. You are going to be in some big doo-doo. Was it really your fault? Should you loose your house over it?
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  8. #8
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GMichael
    It's not just bars that are held responsible. Say you have a party and your buddy Joe drinks his butt off, but his wife who doesn't drink is the driver. Then when it's time to leave, wifey is too tired or doesn't feel well, and Joe gets behind the wheel and kills someone. You are going to be in some big doo-doo. Was it really your fault? Should you loose your house over it?
    I hear what you're saying GM. It's can be very controversial. Same with seeing people in some form of distress but not trying to help them. Even worse, if you try performing some procedure on them, you could be liable if it goes wrong. I don't like that someone can trip and hurt themselves on my property without me granting them access, then sue me, but that's the rule, so I try to keep dangerous objects locked up safely.

    Courts are faced with these loaded questions all the time. The lawmakers try to balance society's protection and fairness when they make the law, then courts try to interpret it (or put their political doctrine spin on it). Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don't. Sometimes society is split on which way to go. Sometimes no law can be perfect because of an infinite number of possible scenarios that question the rule, and push it to the extreme. But all that's up to lawmakers to decide, not me. As long as they make a decision, everyone knows where they stand at least. That's the issue here for me. Beyond that, you just hope nothing happens, and if it does, that you acted reasonably and can prove your case. I'm not saying all the employees are guilty, those facts will be presented I'm sure, and the courts will decide. But if they knew these people were getting into the car drunk with the potential to do harm and let it happen without trying, that's not exactly innocent IMO.

    But once it's law, it's law. No excuse. Don't like the risks the law imposes? Don't run a bar or get good insurance. I don't like having to pay taxes, but that's the law too.

  9. #9
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    I know the law makers are trying to help (at least in theory). This is kind of like how a parent will punish all their kids if one does something wrong. This way, next time, if one of them is doing something wrong, the others will stop them. Or in the military, if one guy/gal screws up, everyone gets more running or pushups etc. I see how this can work, but I'm not so sure it's fair. I feel very strongly that a person should be held responsible for their own actions instead of others being held responsible for them. It's too easy for a person to buy a couple of drinks from each bartender. Some people don't look drunk no matter how much they've had.
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  10. #10
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Absolutely, there should be some responsibility laid on the bar, but not entirely since obviously the driver bears the greatest responsibility. I would guess that there's more to the story than what got reported in the article, but in a situation where someone is already drunk, it's the patron that has diminished capacity. The bartender/server presumably does not have diminished capacity and has better judgment to assess whether somebody has had one too many.

    I also think it varies by location. In San Francisco, bar patrons in my neighborhood would get blitzed all the time, and I think the police and bar employees were more lax because most people don't go barhopping by car in San Francisco. I certainly know I was a lot more carefree about how many drinks I'd have, since I would just hop into a cab or bus or rail car to go home. In areas where just about everybody drives, I would think that the bar employees need to be more vigilant.

    I worked at a convenience store when I was in high school and college, and it was MY responsibility to make sure that patrons were 1) over age, and 2) sober. If some high school kid or drunk came in wanting to buy beer and I sold it to them, the liability falls on me even if they never take a sip of the beer that they buy. The kid/drunk gets a slap on the wrist, while the convenience store worker has to pay a fine and do community service. Plus, in Cali the store that sold the alcohol can have their alcohol license suspended on the first offense. Is this entirely fair? Probably not, but the laws are setup in a way that places a lot of the responsibility on the businesses.
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  11. #11
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GMichael
    I know the law makers are trying to help (at least in theory). This is kind of like how a parent will punish all their kids if one does something wrong. This way, next time, if one of them is doing something wrong, the others will stop them. Or in the military, if one guy/gal screws up, everyone gets more running or pushups etc. I see how this can work, but I'm not so sure it's fair. I feel very strongly that a person should be held responsible for their own actions instead of others being held responsible for them. It's too easy for a person to buy a couple of drinks from each bartender. Some people don't look drunk no matter how much they've had.
    I agree with you on personal accountability. And that's an important point here. The driver isn't off the hook for any of this, so personal accountability isn't diminished. Nobody is saying the driver is innocent and nobody disagrees the driver is even more guilty than the bar staff. Unfortunately the driver is probably dead. The question is merely whether other people did enough, or had any moral or legal obligation to do anything at all?

  12. #12
    Sure, sure... Auricauricle's Avatar
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    Gm, your comments relating the bartender-driver relationship to the automobile industry are a bit over the top, docha think?

    Alcohol is a mind-altering substance that has been shown to impair the capacity for inebriated persons to perform certain operations safely. Period. Just as a pharmacy is required to ensure that certain medications are doled out on a prescriptive basis, persons serving alcohol are (or should be) required to assess their patrons and make sure that they are not engaged in some activity that would potentially bring harm to themselves or others. I think the bartender who sits back and lets the drunk get behind the wheel of his car and drive off should bear some of the blame if the driver damages property or in involved in an accident that is injurious. I wouldn't mind seeing bars request keeping patrons' car keys and witholding them until they are sober or within parameters that indicate they are fit to drive. This is why reasonable people designate drivers or let friends crash at their place.

    It doesn't help to create "slippery slope" arguments that start from one conclusion and lead to a myriad others that are either unlikely or are ludicrous. While it may be seriously considered that personal liberties may be potentially threatened, reasonable laws, reasonably applied should be of concern only in those who are in direct relationship to the action in question. Involving other persons or entities that are not involved is bad law or straight from the script of Boston Legal.

  13. #13
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Auricauricle
    Gm, your comments relating the bartender-driver relationship to the automobile industry are a bit over the top, docha think?
    Nah, I think GM just used it to frame the question of how far the responsibility goes, which is a fair point. It's definitely not black and white in every situation and the six degrees of separation will often be subject to interpretation and debate.

  14. #14
    Sure, sure... Auricauricle's Avatar
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    over the top.
    I can buy that....Mebbe I was

    As far as accountability goes, well...

  15. #15
    Man of the People Forums Moderator bobsticks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Auricauricle
    It doesn't help to create "slippery slope" arguments that start from one conclusion and lead to a myriad others that are either unlikely or are ludicrous. While it may be seriously considered that personal liberties may be potentially threatened, reasonable laws, reasonably applied should be of concern only in those who are in direct relationship to the action in question. Involving other persons or entities that are not involved is bad law or straight from the script of Boston Legal.
    Speaking of "straight from the script of Boston Legal", your concept of detaining patrons, confiscating keys, and administering Breath-Alyzer testing is neither practical nor are bar workers legally empowered to do so.

    And at the risk of sounding ludicrous, there may be some real life questions that need to be asked. We do need to know the length of time over which said product was allegedly purchased. Was it 31 beers or 31 shots of 151? How many folks were drinking on the tab? Is there any indication that they were purchasing bevereges for others? Did they have any liquor before or after leaving the establishment? What was the length of time between when they left the bar and when the accident occured? What was the distance travelled between the bar location and where the accident occured? How many servers/waitresses/bartenders were responsible for putting things on the tab? Were drinks ordered from a single location or by various people from various locations? What's the capacity of the establishment and how close to full was it?

    There are quite a few scenarios in which the degree, if any, of negligence of the bar owners/administrators elevated or lessened and not all of them involve "slippery slope" arguments.

    The good thing though is that we're working on some stuff to protect the public and thereby create the need for more lawyers.
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  16. #16
    Sgt. At Arms Worf101's Avatar
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    Hmmm

    Just two words...

    Personal Responsibility.

    Da Worfster

  17. #17
    Man of the People Forums Moderator bobsticks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Worf101
    Just two words...

    Personal Responsibility.

    Da Worfster

    Thank you!!
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  18. #18
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Fair enough

    Quote Originally Posted by Worf101
    Just two words...

    Personal Responsibility.

    Da Worfster
    Though just to play devil's advocate, I suspect if I saw somebody's child lying in a pool of his own blood after a car accident or something, begging for help, dying, and didn't even take the cell phone out of my pocket to dial 9-1-1, but rather sat around and watched him die for amusement, or just left him and ignored it, an awful lot of parents would hold me personally responsible for what became of him...what level of involvement do I need before it becomes reasonable that I do have a responsibility, even if I wasn't the perpetrator of the crime?

    We all owe each other a legal duty of care in society...that's a fundamental principle.

  19. #19
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    But if they knew these people were getting into the car drunk with the potential to do harm and let it happen without trying, that's not exactly innocent IMO.
    This is the kind of question that makes things even trickier:

    Did the bar staff know?

    They may have known the 4 teens were drunk, but did they know that they were driving?

    From the article it seems the kids were in bar for a long time... 31 drinks by 4 people is just less than 8 drinks each... 8 beers over 3 or 4 hours might not seem like a big deal to the bartenders...

    From the article it is clear that the kids were speeding... but were they speeding because (or while) they were drunk? Speeding in general could result in the accident, even if they were still sober...

    Also, since some people never look drunk, how does a bartender determine that he/she should not be served anymore liquor? Do they start doing a breath-alyzer test after every drink? Do they mandate the maximum amount of Beer/shots that someone can drink (regardless of whether they appear drunk)?

    If they take my car keys because I fail the breath-alyzer, how long can they detain me? If I don't have the money left to call a cab, do they have to foot the bill?

    While I like to see efforts made to reduce drunk driving, there are many questions that need to be answered before new laws are enacted & people are prosecuted for failure of care...

  20. #20
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Auricauricle
    Gm, your comments relating the bartender-driver relationship to the automobile industry are a bit over the top, docha think?

    Alcohol is a mind-altering substance that has been shown to impair the capacity for inebriated persons to perform certain operations safely. Period. Just as a pharmacy is required to ensure that certain medications are doled out on a prescriptive basis, persons serving alcohol are (or should be) required to assess their patrons and make sure that they are not engaged in some activity that would potentially bring harm to themselves or others. I think the bartender who sits back and lets the drunk get behind the wheel of his car and drive off should bear some of the blame if the driver damages property or in involved in an accident that is injurious. I wouldn't mind seeing bars request keeping patrons' car keys and witholding them until they are sober or within parameters that indicate they are fit to drive. This is why reasonable people designate drivers or let friends crash at their place.

    It doesn't help to create "slippery slope" arguments that start from one conclusion and lead to a myriad others that are either unlikely or are ludicrous. While it may be seriously considered that personal liberties may be potentially threatened, reasonable laws, reasonably applied should be of concern only in those who are in direct relationship to the action in question. Involving other persons or entities that are not involved is bad law or straight from the script of Boston Legal.
    I don't think so. How is a bar tender supposed to know how drunk a person is? Is there a method they can use for testing or is it a by eye judging? I know plenty of people who can drink like a fish and not show it. And there are usually more than one bar tender in a club, so there is no way for one bar tender to really know how many a person has had. You are saying that the bar tender is sitting back and letting someone drink and drive. How do they know he's driving? How do they keep track of everyone who is drinking? There is no reasonable way for them to be sure. There is however one person who does know. The person doing the drinking and driving. To hold anybody else responsible (other than someone who pushes the drink on them) is the slippery slope in my opinion.
    If they want to hold bar tenders in the same regard as a pharmacy, then we need to make them to to college for a few years to get a bartending degree before they are to get behind the bar. Let them give a test to anyone drinking.
    My point was and still is that holding a bar tender responsible for someone else's actions is just as ludicrous as the other examples I gave. Sometimes you have to exaggerate before someone gets your point.
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  21. #21
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Though just to play devil's advocate, I suspect if I saw somebody's child lying in a pool of his own blood after a car accident or something, begging for help, dying, and didn't even take the cell phone out of my pocket to dial 9-1-1, but rather sat around and watched him die for amusement, or just left him and ignored it, an awful lot of parents would hold me personally responsible for what became of him...what level of involvement do I need before it becomes reasonable that I do have a responsibility, even if I wasn't the perpetrator of the crime?

    We all owe each other a legal duty of care in society...that's a fundamental principle.
    That sounds like the 'Good Samaritan Law' in the last episode of Seinfeld....

    So let's take your example a little further:

    Suppose I see a mugger robbing an old lady... I'm a lot bigger than the mugger (and I'm a marital arts expert) and the mugger appears to be unarmed... am I required to intervene?

    Back to your first scenario, what if I load the kid into my car and take him to the hospital, where he subsequently dies (because he should not have been moved from the scene)? Should I really be charged for his death?

  22. #22
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Though just to play devil's advocate, I suspect if I saw somebody's child lying in a pool of his own blood after a car accident or something, begging for help, dying, and didn't even take the cell phone out of my pocket to dial 9-1-1, but rather sat around and watched him die for amusement, or just left him and ignored it, an awful lot of parents would hold me personally responsible for what became of him...what level of involvement do I need before it becomes reasonable that I do have a responsibility, even if I wasn't the perpetrator of the crime?

    We all owe each other a legal duty of care in society...that's a fundamental principle.
    Oh man! Now I'll have that image in my head all day.
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  23. #23
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    That sounds like the 'Good Samaritan Law' in the last episode of Seinfeld....

    So let's take your example a little further:

    Suppose I see a mugger robbing an old lady... I'm a lot bigger than the mugger (and I'm a marital arts expert) and the mugger appears to be unarmed... am I required to intervene?
    Been awhile since I studied this, but I do recall a vague rule most jurisdictions use - you are to help up to the point where it could cause yourself undo hardship or some such drivel...you get the point though. You aren't obligated to take on an armed criminal bare handed, but you are expected to help victims of a car accident if you can...
    Back to your first scenario, what if I load the kid into my car and take him to the hospital, where he subsequently dies (because he should not have been moved from the scene)? Should I really be charged for his death?
    There's precedents on this very example. We are getting into some seriousl legal philosophy here...which I'd prefer to avoid (I'm not an expert on the subject at all).

    But I do know that once the law exists, you have to follow it whether you agree with it or not. Or you will be charged, and the courts will then decide if you acted reasonably or not.
    That's where this case is going.

  24. #24
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc

    But I do know that once the law exists, you have to follow it whether you agree with it or not. (or even know anything about the new or old law) Or you will be charged, and the courts will then decide if you acted reasonably or not.
    That's where this case is going.
    It's getting tougher every day to not only know what's right but at the same time, know what the courts deem to be right this year.
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  25. #25
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    FA? Are you still with us? Any thoughts?
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