Lawsuits arising from DWI are generally against the driver of the vehicle. But in this case, the suit is against a strip club in Texas that served the driver, Erasmo Ramirez, too much alcohol.
Ramirez left the club with a blood alcohol level of at least 0.295 on the night of the accident.
The problem for the club, Rick's Cabaret, is that they allegedly served alcohol to Ramirez after he became intoxicated. The proof, plaintiffs say, is in their policy.
Rick's Cabaret makes entertainers pay a 'house charge' to work in the club, alleges the complaint. Entertainers sell drinks to earn 'credits' toward the charge which purportedly encourages them to over-serve customers.
That could be a violation of Texas's Dram Shop law which prohibits licensed alcohol vendors from serving visibly intoxicated patrons.
Dram shop laws hold alcohol sellers accountable for drunk driving accidents if they serve visibly intoxicated patrons who later injure others as a result of their drunkenness. To prove a claim the plaintiff has to show that the bar or liquor store actually served the driver when they were already visibly impaired.
That can be difficult to prove since the victim likely wasn't in the bar at the time and bartenders or liquor store employees are often the only witnesses in the case.
But if a store policy tends to encourage employees to sell as many drinks as possible that can be used as evidence that employees also over-served this particular patron.
This kind of logic has been used before and it caused Domino's to shift their policies. The company was accused of tacitly encouraging speeding because of their promotion offering pizzas delivered in 30 minute or they're free. Drivers who didn't make the deadline had to cover the cost of the pizza.
Dominos settled that lawsuit so it's unclear if they would have won in court. Still, the case shows that poorly thought-out company policies can lead to legal troubles.
It's never a bad idea to go over written company policies with an attorney to ensure that everything is above board.
Rick's Cabaret has not been served with the lawsuit, reports Houston Press, but that doesn't mean a DWI related claim isn't coming. Now might be a good time to consider a different employee incentive system.
- Lawsuit claims strip club's policy at fault in teen's death (Houston Chronicle)
- Bar Criminally Liable for Patron's DUI Crash (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
- 3 Reasons Why Your Company Policies Must be in Writing (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)