Here is another tragedy that clearly shows how important it is for restaurants, bars and liquor stores to take responsibility and stop providing alcohol to those who are already intoxicated – especially if they are ready to drive away in that condition. According to a news report in the Arizona Daily Star, two Midtown city eateries and the insurance company of a convicted drunk driver agreed to pay a total of $410,000 in settling with the family of a man killed in a DUI crash.
The lawsuit filed by the victim’s family reportedly stated that employees at Elle, a Wine County restaurant and Cuvee World Bistro should’ve known that 36-year-old Julie Lagergen was too intoxicated to be consuming more alcohol before they provided her with more. On Aug. 24, 2005, Lagergen drove her Volvo station wagon head-on into the Kia in which Evan Zarate was a passenger. Her blood alcohol was almost three times the .08 legal limit at 0.23 percent. Zarate, 22, suffered critical injuries in the crash, never regained consciousness and died a week later, the Star reported.
The restaurant’s owners of course denied that their employees did anything wrong. One of the restaurant’s owners told the newspaper that his employees were trained to identify those who’d had too much to drink and saw none of those signs in Lagergren. But they said they decided to settle because they didn’t want to take a chance losing a jury trial, which would certainly have put them out of business. Lagergren took a plea deal and was sentenced to three years in prison for negligent homicide and five years probation each for aggravated assault and misdemeanor DUI.
There’s no question that more and more establishments such as bars, restaurants and convenience stores should be held responsible for providing alcohol to those who are already intoxicated and in no position to drive. In this case, it cost the life of a young father. The money his children and their mothers received after the settlement did no justice to what they must have gone through and the life they must live without Zarate’s support.
But settlements such as these will hopefully draw more attention to the fact that drunken driving costs lives, that these establishments should spend more time and money training their servers and bartenders to identify those patrons who are already intoxicated and stop selling alcoholic drinks to them. First of all, it’s illegal in the state of California to serve alcoholic beverages to a minor or an intoxicated person. It’s a violation punishable by revocation of the business permit, fines or even jail time. Secondly, it’s a matter of business ethics. As businesses that serve the community, it is their duty to the residents of their communities. It’s the right and responsible way to do business.