Alcohol vendors who serve drunks targeted


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TALLAHASSEE – Clearwater lawyer Tom Carey, an activist who works to curb drunken driving, things it should be easier to sue bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to somebody who is drunk.

Rep. Jonnie Byrd Jr., R-Plant City, has introduced a bill that would accomplish just that. The bill would not affect homeowners or party hosts unless they have state beverage license. But the measure faces serious trouble in a conservative, business-oriented Legislature that is more inclined to limit civil law suits than establish new causes of action

Currently, civil suits against those who sell alcoholic beverages to someone who subsequently gets involved in a drunken driving accident are prohibited. The state can take actions against a bar or restaurant that serves a visibly drunken person only when the bar has received written notice from a family member that the person is addicted to alcohol, a standard that is all but impossible to meet

We’re talking about saving Florida families, “said Paul Jeske, lobbyist for the Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers. ” A person who is intoxicated is primarily responsible for damage to others, but where vendors can see the person is intoxicated the bar owner should be liable.”

Jeske said the Responsible Vendor Act, passed in 1979, was supposed to make it harder for visible drunken patrons to be served. Liquor lobbyist said that law is adequate.

But Carey, saying he was testifying on behalf of the 25,000 Floridians killed since the Responsible Vendor Act was passed, urged the committee to ” strip the cloak on immunity” that surrounds those who sell alcohol.

Carey called the current law a farce because it immunizes vendors from liability and has not resulted in any action against a vendor.

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