When you serve alcohol to someone with car keys in his or her pocket, you’ve got a responsibility. So says Canada’s law. Because of that law, a 20-year-old woman from Barrie is suing a drunk driver and the bar that served him for $11 million.
Mallorie Wild was hit and severely injured by a drunk driver who fled the scene. He has since been caught and convicted. But Wild underwent 17 surgeries and endured a great amount of suffering, so she is seeking damages for what the collision has cost her. The defendants in the suit are the driver who hit her, and bar which allegedly abdicated its responsibility.
Damage lawsuits are a red flag to Internet commenters. They fire off questions like, “Why is the bar responsible? How can a bartender keep track of everyone who might drive after drinking? Isn’t it the drinker’s responsibility not to drive?
Canada’s Liquor Licence law has the answers:
“…if a person … sells liquor to … a person whose condition is such that the consumption of liquor would apparently … increase the person’s intoxication so that he or she would be in danger of causing injury [ . . . ] the other person is entitled to recover an amount as compensation for the injury or damage from the person who … sold the liquor.”
This is called the law of commercial liability, and rulings have determined that it prohibits commercial establishments from serving drunk people, or over-serving people until they become drunk.
Bartenders in Ontario are required to complete a program called SmartServe which trains them to deal with situations like the one that caused Mallorie Wild’s injuries. If it’s determined that the driver in Wild’s case had been over-served, then the bar would share the responsibility.
Despite the inevitable complaints about nanny states and personal responsibility, the Liquor Licence law makes a valid point. The driver does have a responsibility to make the right decision not to drink and drive. However, once he is intoxicated, his ability to make the right decision is impaired. It then becomes the responsibility of the servers to ensure that he doesn’t take to the road and put others in danger.
Drunk driving is a killer in Ontario and everywhere else. We need to face that individuals don’t always make the right decision, and others must step up to prevent injury and death.