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Can a Bartender Be Held Liable for a St. Patrick’s Day Drunk Driving Accident in Utah?

St. Patrick’s Day is commonly celebrated while adorned in green and out at the bar with friends, family, and coworkers. The Irish holiday is a cultural and religious celebration that typically involves shamrocks, wearing green clothing, and drinking lots of alcohol. Unfortunately, amidst all the fun, the yearly festivities also see a severe spike in drunk driving. 

Driving while under the influence of any intoxicating substance is illegal in the state of Utah. For alcohol consumption, you are not legally allowed to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.8% or over. For many adults, this translates to roughly four beers over the course of four hours. When an individual decides to get behind the wheel after knowingly consuming over the legal limit, they are responsible for their actions, including any collisions. However, what happens when they claim to have been overserved? 

When Is a Bartender Liable for a Drunk Driving Collision? 

Being overserved is the act of knowingly being allowed to purchase and consume an alcoholic drink when you are exhibiting the qualities of someone who is already heavily intoxicated. Warning signs may include: 

  • Vomiting
  • Stumbling
  • Being physically aggressive with other customers

In Utah, bartenders are legally held accountable to a reasonable standard of care regarding serving alcohol. Breaching this standard by continuing to contribute to excessive alcohol consumption is considered a failure to adhere to their duty of care and leaves them liable for a drunk driving accident. 

Similarly, a bartender may be found responsible for serving an individual who cannot legally consume alcoholic beverages, such as a minor or someone who has been interdicted due to a previous crime. If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident in which the at-fault driver was drunk, they may claim they were overserved. Utah currently adheres to a modified comparative negligence law, meaning negligence and liability are determined on a percentage basis. This means the driver may be found to only be partially responsible for the accident, though they will still be held accountable for getting behind the wheel and driving. 

How Does the Alcoholic Product Liability Act Affect Drunk Driving Collisions in Utah? 

Utah Section 32B-15-101, also known as the Alcoholic Product Liability Act, specifically maps out liability for “injuries and damage resulting from the distribution of alcoholic products.” There are two main parties outlined in the chapter who can be affected during the case of a drunk driving collision, including:

The Contributor

The contributor is the individual who has served the alcohol that resulted in the drunk driving accident. The Alcoholic Product Liability Act details the contributor as being at fault for a drunk driving crash when they have directly served alcohol to someone who is either noticeably heavily intoxicated, underage, or not allowed to purchase alcohol legally. 

The act also protects employees like bartenders when it comes to limiting consumption. They are legally entitled to, in the state of Utah, stop the purchasing of alcoholic beverages by someone they deem to be too intoxicated. If the person still manages to drink and then gets into a drunk driving accident, the contributor can not be held legally responsible. 

The Intoxicated Driver

In the case of the intoxicated driver, if they are found to have been in a drunk driving collision, and it is the direct result of being over-served, they may sue the bartender or alcohol provider for partial liability. However, it is important to note that this does not eradicate their negligence or recklessness, and they are still likely to face charges. 

Similarly, if you are the victim of a personal injury accident and it is due to an intoxicated driver claiming to have been overserved, this does not leave the intoxicated driver free from being held liable for their actions. 

Been in an Accident With Someone Who Was Overserved? See How Feller & Wendt Can Help You Today

At the end of the day, no matter if the at-fault driver was overserved or not, they still got behind the wheel of a car and caused an accident and your injuries. The team at Feller & Wendt has devoted their careers to getting our clients the compensation they need to recover from their losses and start fresh. We understand that sometimes the only way to fully move forward is to get justice and financial compensation for your injuries. 

We utilize a people-first approach and will be by your side the entire process to help navigate and support. For a free consultation to see how we can best help you and your case today, please give our office a call at (801) 499-5060 or fill out our contact form.

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