Thursday, February 5, 2009

Just Because You Aren't Serving Liquor Doesn't Mean You Aren't Responsible for Someone Else's Drunk Driving

The Illinois Appellate Court recently decided that just because a business did not serve alcohol did not mean they could not be held responsible for the actions of a patron who got drunk and drove.

Just over two years ago last January, John D. Homatas went to a gentlemen's club. In Illinois you cannot have total nudity and serve alcohol. Diamonds Gentlemen's Club does not serve liquor. They sell glasses, ice, tonic, soda water,and other mixers. Mr. Homatas brought his own alcohol to the club. Once workers in the club ascertained that he was drunk -- after two hours of drinking he was discovered vomiting in the bathroom -- he was ejected from the club. The valet who had parked his car gave him his keys, his car, and let him drive off of the premises. Unfortunately, a short time later Mr. Homatas had an accident that caused the death of two adults, including his passenger, and a near-term baby (the mother was 8 1/2 months pregnant at the time of the fatal crash). Mr. Homatas was charged with DUI, and found guilty at a jury trial. He was sentenced to twelve years in prison.

Mr. Homatas is also a co-defendant in a wrongful death suit, along with Diamonds Gentlemen's Club, filed by an attorney for the deceased. The Appellate Court believed that although Diamonds did not serve alcohol, (1) they provided mixers, cups, and ice; (2) they knew Homatas was drunk when they kicked him out of the club; (3) they gave him back the keys to his car (which had been parked by the club's employees); (4) they placed him behind the wheel of his car, and (5) ordered him to drive off of their property.

It appears the owners plan to continue to fight this case, and it also looks like they think they are right because they apparently still have a BYOB policy.

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