Intoxicated Driving in Florida: Who is at Fault?
Florida is seen by many as a destination state for vacations. With vacation comes relaxation. That might look like having a few drinks at your hotel bar or a nearby restaurant. Let’s say you then got in a car, while legally intoxicated, and were in an accident that resulted in serious harm or even death. Could the family of the deceased go after the establishment that served you the alcohol? Or, could they only go after you, the driver? It is a question about intoxicated driving in Florida that makes a lot of sense. And, it is argued in the case Gonzalez vs. Stoneybrook West Golf Club from August 2017.
Nathan Hartman was a member of the Stoneybrook West Golf Club. He was a frequent golfer at the club, and also a frequent drinker. He played golf about 80 times over a three year period (that’s about once every two weeks). Almost every time he played, he was intoxicated, according to a friend of his. On the day of the accident, Mr. Hartman consumed alcoholic drinks provided by the club both inside and on the golf course. Following this round of golf, Mr. Hartman drove his vehicle into the car of Beatriz Gonzalez, killing her. His blood alcohol content was .302.
As a result of the accident, the plantiff sued the golf club. The club successfully moved for summary judgment, saying that there was no competent record evidence that the golfer was habitually addicted to alcohol or that the club had knowledge of his addiction. This ruling was despite the evidence filed that included the history of his drinking and golfing described above.
Additional evidence of Mr. Hartman’s drinking at the club included a friend testifying that he normally started his round of golf by drinking two strong whiskey and Cokes (served by bartenders familiar with him). Halfway through the 18 holes, he had another whiskey and Coke. He would also buy drinks from the cart girl, an employee of the club.
The golf club argued that it could not be held liable for the accident. They invoked Florida’s Dram Shop Statute. This statute says that the seller of alcohol would not be responsible for “damages resulting from a purchaser’s intoxication unless the vendor serves the purchaser knowing that he or she is habitually addicted to alcohol.”
The court ruled that the plantiff offered enough evidence to defeat the summary judgment. Specifically, the court concluded that “Gonzalez offered sufficient evidence to raise a factual dispute not resolvable by summary judgment as to whether Hartman was habitually addicted to alcohol and, if so, whether Stoneybrook knew of his addiction.”
If you have been in an accident involving intoxicated driving in Florida, or know someone who has, you need an attorney. Contact SteinLaw for advice on what to do next.