High Alert for South Florida Bars - Jury Finds Bar Guilty of Over-Serving Patron to the Tune of $11M

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Big tab for a little bar, Steinger, Iscoe & Greene $11.1 Million verdict in dram shop case precedes Florida legislation, effective July 1, that makes leaving the scene of an accident a serious offense, comparable to DUI manslaughter.

Michael Steinger

"If you keep selling drinks when you know someone is drunk, you share responsibility for the outcome."

As the nation prepares to celebrate its 238th Independence Day, drinking establishments in Florida have reason to pay attention to whom and how much they are serving. In the largest verdict in Okeechobee County history a local drinking establishment, Eagles Lodge, was found to be liable in the hit-and-run, drunk driving case involving Leroy Felt and, victim, Rodney Wilde. The $11.1M verdict is sure to reverberate through the bar community and send a clear message of liability as it relates to these cases (Case No: 2010 CA 457 (Okeechobee)). Michael Steinger, founding member of the plaintiff’s law firm, Steinger, Iscoe, & Greene, says the takeaway for drinking establishments is, "If you keep selling drinks when you know someone is drunk, you share responsibility for the outcome."

Dram shop or drinking establishment liability laws in the state of Florida are very specific. Florida Statute 768.125 outlines that to be held liable the bar must have either served a minor or served to a known alcoholic (retrieved 6/18/2014). According to court documents, Felt not only frequented the lodge, he was also a past president, and was known to the bartenders and staff. During his nine hour drinking binge, Eagles Lodge staff never refused the sale of alcohol to Felt. According to court documents, following the crash, Felt looked out of his window, saw the injured victim and the mangled ruins of the motorcycle, but instead of lending assistance he made the decision to leave the scene (retrieved 6/18/2014).

An interesting aspect of this case is the hit-and-run factor. A previous loophole in Florida law served as a disincentive for drunk drivers to stop their vehicles after a collision and lend assistance to those they have injured. Instead drivers have been known to leave the scene and turn themselves in to law enforcement after getting sober, thereby avoiding DUI charges. This week, Governor Rick Scott rectified the shortfall in the existing law, changing legislation – effective July 1st – making leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death hold a maximum four year prison term; the same as for DUI manslaughter.

The verdict and the change in legislation come at the height of preparations for July 4th celebrations – many of which will include the consumption of alcohol. The attorneys and staff at Steinger, Iscoe, and Greene hope that, as Independence Day approaches, there is a keen awareness about potential liability the $11M verdict will inspire in bar owners and servers in our community and everywhere. Additionally, for those participating in festivities, the message from our legislators should come across loud and clear that drinking responsibly is the action of the day and leaving the scene no longer comes with a built-in protection against penalty according to the attorneys. Responsibility for ensuring the safety of bar patrons and the community at large is shared. Neglecting to cut off visibly inebriated patrons or fleeing the scene of an accident could result in huge financial impacts and tragic outcomes for all involved according to the firm.

About Steinger, Iscoe & Greene:

Steinger, Iscoe & Greene is a proven legal team whose number one goal is to get injury victims throughout Florida and California every dollar they truly deserve for their injuries. Since 1997, the firm has successfully handled thousands of cases including: auto accidents, bicycle accidents, birth injuries and medical malpractice. The entire legal team is committed to representing and fighting for injury victims’ best interests, giving each client insight into their individual rights as it relates to the law.

With more than 30 lawyers, 140 legal professionals, and offices throughout South Florida - Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Port St Lucie, Okeechobee, Ft Myers, Orlando and Tampa - and most recently San Diego, California, the firm is ready to advocate for the best interests of injury victims coast-to-coast while offering the No Fee Guarantee®; you don’t owe us any money unless we get money for you.

Steinger, Iscoe & Greene
1645 Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard
Ninth Floor
West Palm Beach, Florida 33401
(800) 560 - 5059

Michael Steinger
(561) 616 – 5550

H. Shaw Heydt
Executive Director
Office: (561) 616 – 5550
Direct: (561) 932 – 1526

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