North Carolina Supreme Court Upholds Dismissal of Dram Shop Wrongful Death Claim Based on Decedent’s Contributory Negligence

The holidays are a season for spending time with friends, family, and loved ones often in the form of parties and gatherings that involve food and drink. Alcohol is a common offering at many holiday parties and people usually spend more time going out to restaurants or bars during the season to take advantage of their vacation or time while visiting family. Although this is usually a harmless activity, there are unfortunate situations where someone is overserved and then gets behind the wheel of a vehicle. Drunk drivers cause some of the most devastating and even fatal accidents. At Maurer Law, our Charlotte injury lawyers are prepared to help you fight for the compensation that you deserve after being involved in an accident with a drunk driver.

In a recent case, the North Carolina Supreme Court considered a case involving the state’s dram shop liability act. These laws are a set of rules that hold bars, restaurants, and other retailers who serve alcohol to the public liable for overserving a patron who later causes a North Carolina accident. In the case, the court was specifically asked to address a situation where the plaintiff was contributorily negligent. This is a term used to describe a situation where the plaintiff was also negligent at the time of the accident, contributing to the harm that he or she suffered.

The facts of the case are as follows. The defendants were hotel operators who operated a bar in one of their resorts. A husband and wife checked into the hotel and began drinking at the restaurant. Over the course of the evening, they ordered 24 alcoholic beverages. The wife consumed at least ten drinks and was so intoxicated that the hotel workers had to transport her to her hotel room in a wheelchair according to evidence provided during trial. The next morning, the husband found his wife dead on the floor. The cause of death was later determined to be alcohol poisoning.

The decedent filed a claim against the hotel alleging, among other things, negligence and a claim under the state’s dram shop liability act. The plaintiff eventually appealed the lower court’s decision to grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss the dram shop claim. The Court of Appeal reversed, and the defendants appealed on the basis that the bare facts of the plaintiff’s claim established that she was contributorily negligent in causing her death. The Supreme Court agreed, finding that the decedent was just as negligent as the defendants. As a result, the Supreme Court concluded that the lower court properly dismissed the plaintiff’s dram shop liability claim.

If you or someone you love suffered an injury as the result of a drunk driving accident or another alcohol-related accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Our seasoned team of personal injury attorneys offers a free consultation to help you explore your legal rights and whether you have a claim against the person or companies who caused your injuries. To set up your appointment, call us today at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online to get started.

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