A restaurant in Maryland has announced it will surrender its liquor license and close its doors rather than fight to stay in business after one of its patrons allegedly drove drunk and fatally struck an on-duty police officer.
The state alcohol board was slated to hold a hearing on the matter August 4th, but the hearing was canceled when the business chose to give up their license willingly. It’s likely the owners realize they are in for a long and arduous legal battle as it is, given the potential for dram shop liability by the officer’s family.
Although there has been no word yet on any civil filing by the 25-year-old officer’s surviving relatives, that type of civil action may be one avenue of accountability and compensation his family could pursue.
According to The Bethesda Magazine, the incident in question occurred in December 2015, when Officer Noah Leotta volunteered to work an extra shift to help catch drunk drivers. That same night, a man in that very district was drinking heavily – whiskey and beer – for at least four hours at the same restaurant before his departure in his car.
The 47-year-old driver, who pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter in May, reportedly struck Leotta as he was in the middle of a traffic stop. He died weeks later of his injuries. The driver faces up to 10 years in prison. At the time of the crash, his blood-alcohol level was measured to be more than three times the limit of 0.08.
Leotta’s loved ones are pushing for changes in a state law that will require more drivers who fail breath-alcohol tests to install and use ignition interlock systems. These systems require drivers to blow into a device to prove they aren’t drunk before the vehicle will even start. In many states, including Florida, ignition interlocks are not mandatory following a first-time offense, though judges do have the discretion to order it if they choose, per F.S. 316.193. (The exception here is if the driver has a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 or higher or had a minor in the vehicle).
A statement released by an attorney for the national chain restaurant said that given the circumstances, license forfeiture was the right thing to do.
Surviving family members in this case have a few different legal options. Those include:
- Workers’ compensation. The police officer was on-duty at the time of the drunk driving accident. That means that his injuries and subsequent death occurred in the course and scope of employment, which means any dependent family members would be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
- Bodily injury liability. This claim would be made directly against the drunk driver, and could be payable by his insurer. If the driver lacked adequate insurance, decedent’s family might be able to pursue underinsured motorist coverage from his own personal policy, or from that which covered his employer.
- Dram shop liability. This is an action taken against the establishment that served the drunk driver alcohol. Dram shop laws vary from state-to-state. In Florida, F.S. 768.125 holds that a person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is either underage or known to be habitually addicted to alcohol can be held liable for damages.
If you have been injured in a Miami drunk driving accident, we can help.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Hooters To Close Rockville Pike Location in Wake of Officer’s Death, July 25, 2016, By Andrew Metcalf, Bethesda Magazine
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Texting and Driving Causes Fatal Miami Car Accident, July 24, 2016, Miami Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer