SB 209, sponsored by Senator Kelley, proposes to impose liability on a seller of alcohol when an intoxicated person causes damages.
WHEREAS, Maryland is one of only eight states where an alcoholic beverages licensee has no liability for a plaintiff’s damages when caused by the licensee’s serving of alcohol to a “visibly intoxicated” patron; and
WHEREAS, The Maryland Court of Appeals has declined to impose liability on an alcoholic beverages licensee for damages caused by an intoxicated patron; and
WHEREAS, The Maryland Court of Appeals has opined that the determination of whether to impose liability on an alcoholic beverages licensee for damages caused by an intoxicated patron involves significant public policy considerations and is best left to the General Assembly….
This bill would add Subtitle 19 to Article 3 of the Maryland code. Proposed additions to the code:
A PERSON MAY BRING AN ACTION UNDER THIS SUBTITLE AGAINST A LICENSEE OR A LICENSEE’S EMPLOYEE WHO SOLD OR FURNISHED ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES TO AN INDIVIDUAL IF:
(1) THE LICENSEE OR THE LICENSEE’S EMPLOYEE KNEW OR REASONABLY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT THE INDIVIDUAL TO WHOM THE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES WERE SOLD OR FURNISHED WAS VISIBLY UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES;
(2) THE LICENSEE OR THE LICENSEE’S EMPLOYEE COULD HAVE REASONABLY FORESEEN THAT THE INDIVIDUAL MIGHT DRIVE OR ATTEMPT TO DRIVE A MOTOR VEHICLE AFTER CONSUMING THE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES;
(3) AFTER CONSUMING THE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES, THE INDIVIDUAL NEGLIGENTLY DROVE OR ATTEMPTED TO DRIVE A MOTOR VEHICLE; AND
(4) THE INDIVIDUAL’S NEGLIGENCE IN DRIVING OR ATTEMPTING TO DRIVE THE MOTOR VEHICLE WAS A PROXIMATE CAUSE OF THE DAMAGES CLAIMED IN THE ACTION.
This bill includes the language, “should have known.” By that standard, it is reasonable to assume that anyone served alcohol could potentially drive – they’re all over 21 and most adults drive. This puts the onus, on the owner/staff of the establishment, to confirm every customer’s driving status.
These laws have problems: not all drunk people appear drunk; not all accidents involving those drinking alcohol are due to the alcohol; not all persons with alcohol in their systems are drunk. Individuals are responsible for their actions and if one chooses to drink, operate a motor vehicle, and get into an accident, the individuals causing damage are liable for their own actions and choices.
Hearing 2/06 at 1:00 p.m.
Update: Unfavorable Report by Judicial Proceedings