Ballin Law

Prevent Underage Drinking

$7.5 Million Liquor Liability Settlement for Injured Motorcycle Passenger

Shortly after midnight, on the main street of a local town in metro-Boston, the 20-year-old boyfriend operates his motorcycle in a 30-mph zone. He approaches a curve in the road which he was very familiar with.  The boyfriend brakes hard. The motorcycle skids, the boyfriend loses control and jumps off the motorcycle. The female passenger still on the motorcycle is ejected in a crash with a pole.  She suffers a paralyzed right arm, facial fractures, a traumatic brain injury and other injuries. Just ten minutes earlier the underage couple departed a popular chain restaurant where they spent 2.5 hours. During this time, they were served and consumed four pitchers of beer. After years of litigation and investigation, I settled the female passenger’s case for $7.5 Million during a privately held mediation.  The case presented numerous challenges which I had to overcome, which included:

  • The responding police officer was brand new on the job.  He reported smelling no alcohol on the motorcycle operator and ordered no immediate blood alcohol test – Due to the boyfriend’s back injury he could not perform field sobriety tests before the boyfriend was removed by ambulance.  Although the boyfriend admitted to coming from the restaurant, he denied drinking alcohol and claimed he was fine to operate the motorcycle.  He was not charged at the scene. 
  • The boyfriend claimed he was cut off by a car – as he approached the curve in the road causing him to lose control of his motorcycle.  There were no witnesses to the crash to refute his claim. 
  • The restaurant’s waitress told police the next day that both had I.D.’s showing they were each 21 years of age. 
  • The restaurant claimed it lost over two hours of the surveillance video – It only produced the first minutes of video when the first of four pitchers were served to the underage couple. 
  • The motorcycle operator claimed three friends who joined the underage couple at their booth in the restaurant shared the four pitchers of beer.
  • The injured female passenger had no memory of the crash.  She was unconscious at the scene.  Due to retrograde amnesia associated with the traumatic brain injury she suffered; she was unable to recall anything after leaving the restaurant. Her next memory was seeing her parents in the emergency room where she was transported.  As for her time in the restaurant she recalled being served, was adamant the waitress did not check their I.D.’s and confirmed being joined by the three friends.  She could not say with certainty how much she drank, or her boyfriend drank, other than he typically drank twice as much as her.

We Proved the Restaurant Knew About the Unsafe Service of Alcohol

The data records of the restaurant revealed the first two pitchers containing 7 pints of beer were delivered within 25 minutes to the underage couple prior to being joined by three friends.  The bar’s corporate representative had to admit at his deposition such service was unsafe.  The waitress testified that after the second pitcher was delivered, she reported her concerns to the manager that the couple were drinking too fast.  She testified he told her that he checked them out after her report, and they were fine, and she could continue to serve them.  The manager could not recall such a report.  See our blog post about the dangers of unsafe service of alcohol as bars reopen following closure for the Covid 19 pandemic.

Like all catastrophic cases our firm has handled, there are no shortcuts.  These cases require persistence, intuition, skill, and hundreds of hours of work to bring it to a successful resolution. This case was no exception. It involved 15 depositions, interviews of over a dozen witnesses, as well as the hiring of thirteen liability and medical experts and hundreds of hours of work. I am glad to report the underage female passenger is now financially set for life.  The painful life lesson was learned and her judgment in who she hangs around with and her use of alcohol have completely turned around. She ended her relationship with the underage boyfriend motorcycle operator shortly after the crash once she learned about his unsafe operation of his motorcycle that evening. She now spends time educating youths about the dangers of alcohol and the importance of making good decisions, as well as studying to assist similarly disabled individuals learn how to exercise and live a healthy life.

Do not Trust the Judgment of a Driver Who Has Been Drinking Alcohol

This is especially true if you were also drinking alcohol.  The female passenger had to endure years of litigation where she was continuously challenged by the restaurant’s attorneys: “why did you get on the motorcycle?”  Although her memory of what she was thinking is gone, the best answer is: this is why it is illegal to serve alcohol to underage persons.  Their judgment and experience in life have not matured enough to make good decisions about drinking and driving, especially after they have also consumed alcoholic beverages.  Studies have shown  underage drinkers are more likely to get into a car with an intoxicated driver.  The impairment of a person’s judgment is a well-known effect of intoxication. It has been reported that just 4 alcoholic drinks can impair a person’s judgment, self-control, reasoning and reaction times get slower. This also effects a person’s speed control and makes it harder to detect danger.  Everyone is different in how they handle alcohol and until a tragedy occurs no one can say with certainty how many alcoholic beverages were too much to safely operate their vehicle. Therefore no one should ever rely upon a driver’s response who was drinking when asked “are you okay to drive?”  Instead, call a taxi, a friend or a relative for a ride home. 

How these challenges were overcome, surprising evidence and lessons learned will be further detailed in a future blog article. 

Contact Our Liquor Liability Lawyers for A Free Consultation

If you or anyone you know is injured because of over-service of alcohol by a bar or restaurant, or service of alcohol to someone underage, it is important to contact us right away in order to preserve critical evidence and pursue compensation from the bar or restaurant that profited from the sale of alcohol to someone who should not have been served.  These cases are handled on a contingent fee basis which means no money is owed unless we are successful in collecting money compensation on the case.  Contact us now for a free and confidential consultation.

In order to protect the privacy of the injured person and witnesses, all names have been changed. Any resemblance to names of real persons, past or present, is merely coincidental and not intended. The injured person agreed to have this article published in order to better educate everyone about their legal rights to compensation when injured.

Steven M. Ballin, Esq.
Steven M. Ballin, Esq.

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