We all believe individuals should be responsible for their own actions. Many of us deplore, to one degree or another, the trend today toward assigning blame to others -- the bartender who sells the drink, the firm that distributes the firearm, the company that manufactures the cigarettes that people make themselves sick with, driving up health costs -- in ways that dilute that individual responsibility. But what about people who know -- or should know -- they are contributing to the harm caused by others but go ahead and do it anyway? What about someone who says, "Sure, here it is," when his mentally deranged neighbor, who's been talking about shooting his ex-wife for a month, asks to borrow his gun? There is moral culpability, for sure, but what about legal blame?
It is against the law in Indiana to "sell, barter, exchange, give, provide or furnish an alcoholic beverage to a person who is intoxicated." (Also to a person "known to be an alcohol abuser," but that's would be worthy of a whole separate post). Such a law would seem to cover that over-serving bartender, but it is now also being cited in a case of a man who got drunk at a company picnic. The victim of a crash involving the man is suing both his company and the city of South Bend for not "exercising due care in the furnishing of alcoholic beverages":
Miller's attorney, Chet Zawalich, told The Tribune he is confident he will be able to prove that the individuals who served Hoshaw beer at the stadium knew he was intoxicated. Does that mean he has eyewitnesses who will testify that Hoshaw was visibly drunk?
Zawalich would not elaborate, but he said he could call upon an expert witness who could testify that the individuals who served Hoshaw should have known he was drunk, given his age, size and the amount of beer he had consumed.
That seems like a stretch to me. Yes, even if there were multiple people serving the guy, it would have been possible for those serving to notice if he were behaving drunkenly. But to somehow know how many drinks he had been served all day and calculate their effect based on his age and size? This is the kind of suit that makes groups reluctant to sponsor anything for fear that someone might hold them ressponsible for something, however remotely plausible the case. The victim here more or less admits she is simply suing those with deep pockets because she still has medical bills to pay and the allegedly impaired driver doesn't have the money to cover them.