As Kansas City car accident lawyers, we know that drunk drivers don't just harm their victims: their victims' loved ones suffer as well. And when a drunk driving accident proves to be fatal, there are no words for the trauma and grief that surviving friends and relatives experience.
Recently, surviving family members filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a Montana bar, a drunk driver and the driver's mother in connection with a fatal crash in December 2011. According to the Independent Review, the lawsuit was filed by relatives of Devon Richetti, 31, who died when the vehicle she was riding in lost control, hit a sign, rolled over and crashed nearly two years ago. Law enforcement officials say the driver of that vehicle, 31 year-old Brandi Dullam, was traveling at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour in the moments leading up to the crash. Richetti, the front seat passenger, was taken from the scene by ambulance, but she later died as a result of serious head and torso injuries. Dullam and another female passenger were both seriously injured.
Dullam's blood-alcohol content was later found to be 0.233%, nearly three times the legal limit. In July 2012, she was convicted of vehicular homicide while under the influence and felony vehicular assault. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison with 15 years suspended.
In the recently-filed wrongful death lawsuit, Richetti's family members seek damages from three parties: the Veterans for Foreign Wars of the United States in East Helena (known as Club VFW), for allegedly serving alcohol to Dullam when she was already intoxicated; Dullam herself; and Dullam's mother, for "allegedly entrusting Dullam with her vehicle knowing she would drink to excess and then drive it."
Missouri's dram shop law:
• Under Missouri law (Section 537.053 RSMo), our state generally abides by "the common law rule that furnishing alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries inflicted by intoxicated persons." In other words, a business is not automatically liable for an accident simply for serving alcohol to a specific individual.
• However, the law does create a set of circumstances under which victims may take legal action against a seller of alcoholic beverages: "a cause of action may be brought by or on behalf of any person who has suffered personal injury or death against any person licensed to sell intoxicating liquor by the drink for consumption on the premises when it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the seller knew or should have known that intoxicating liquor was served to a person under the age of twenty-one years or knowingly served intoxicating liquor to a visibly intoxicated person." (italics added)
• The law defines "visibly intoxicated" as "when [a person] inebriated to such an extent that the impairment is shown by significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction."