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December 16, 2010

Dogfish Head Alehouse in Gaithersburg sued for enabling drunk driving

The family of a 10-year-old girl who was killed two years ago by a drunk driver sued Gaithersburg's Dogfish Head Alehouse Monday holding the bar responsible for the accident.

The plantiff's attorney said the goal is not extract damages from Gaithersburg-based JMGM Group, which runs the bar. But instead to change Maryland law, which exempts bars from being held legally liable for serving drunk customers. 

The drunk driver who started all this is a Michael Eaton. Two years ago, he came to the Gaithersburg bar and over six hours accumulated a long bar tab that included 17 bottles of Corona, two "Lemon Drop" shots, and a shot of tequila, according to police records. (He purchased drinks for himself and others, according to police).

He sped out of the bar on his Range Rover and smashed into a Jeep, killing the 10-year-old girl in the back, Jazimen Warr.

He eventually plead guilty to vehicular manslaughter and is now serving an eight-year sentence. 

But on Monday, the Warr family filed a multi-million lawsuit in Montgomery County Circuit Court charging the company with enabling Eaton's heavy drinking.

The family's attorney, Andrew Bederman, told the Washington Post that in Maryland bars cannot be held responsible for the actions of their customers after they've left the bar.

But he hopes the lawsuit will create an avenue for the families of victims of drunk driving to  make such claims in the future. (via)

Post updated for clarification. Photo: Dogfish Head Ales.

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Posted by Erik Maza at 9:33 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: News


Did they sue Dogfish Head Ales or Dogfish Head Alehouse?

Aren't the Alehouses franchises, so are they suing the brewery in Deleware, or the restaurant that served him? How does that work?

Hey Erik, did you know that they have brewery tours at Troegs Brewery in Harrisburg! And that they are Free! Crazy right! You should devot a blog post to that, because its breaking news!

this lawsuit has more holes than a lesbian orgy.

The ales houses are separate from dogfish head, they only license the name, perhaps you should clarify.

Yeah, he corrected it alright...NOTHING TO SEE HERE!

Who gives a crap about which entity they are suing.

Why don't you just inquire about jurisdiction while you're at it?

Because that is the whole point of the post, richard. Who is at fault. They are suing the bar not the deleware brewery, I think thats a pretty important clarfication, I frankly give a crap about who is getting sued. If that was your company getting sued because it served a beer you made, even though you had nothing do with serving the beer, wouldn't you be upset that it was beig reported that YOU were at fault? ( Although sounds like this douche preffered Corona to 60 minute)

If you didn't understand that bar was getting sued, then you didn't read the rest of the post. And if you still didn't get that, then common sense should have taken over.

Do you own the Dogfish Head brewery? Is that why you're so concerned?

It's bizarre that bars are allowed to let their patrons leave so drunk that they promptly procede to murder someone. and the bar is held 0% responsible. They make fat profits making people drunk, then they just let the drunks loose on the unsuspecting, innocent public. Special privileges for the alcohol industry kill.

No they don't "promptly procede to murder someone". That statement is the kind of sensationalism that must be resisted. Kill yes murder NO. THere is a difference and the difference is rather important.

Yes, because Sam Calgione gives a crap about a terrible Baltimore nightlife blog.... I think I just made your point.

How about suing the municipality for allowing someone to build a bar surrounded by a parking lot?

Ah yes, let's change the law to further reduce the amount of personal responsibility required by citizens, coz if this law passes and someone ends up repeating this incident, they could easily claim they weren't at fault because the alehouse broke the law and served them too much alcohol, as they are slaves to its wizarding properties.

#1 - If the guy had paid cash the whole time, there would be no record of how many drinks he ordered, aside from a bartender's recollection.

#2 - How is the establishment supposed to fulfill its obligation to the endpoint law here? Other than refusing service, are patrons expected to fill out a form with checkboxes when they start drinking answering whether they drove there, took a cab, walked, intend to get sh*tfaced, what ABV the beer they'll be having is, what their relative tolerance is, on and on and on? "We're sorry, your application to drink here has been denied."

#3 - in the case that some ACTUALLY murders someone while drunk and leaving a bar - like with a gun or knife as happens with somewhat frequency in this city - should the bar still be held accountable?

#4 - the drunk driver's sentence should be 20 years minimum.

For the love of snow when did so many Midnight Sun commenters become so insufferable and nitpicky? It's like 100 of my moms in here.

KGM80 why are you reading a blog when you're supposed to be doing your homework.

Agree with everything except for #4. I know it's not cool to defend drunk drivers, but a 20-year minimum for an unintentional crime seems a bit extreme. What if somebody close to you was driving after three beers at happy hour, got in an accident that was not completely his fault which resulted in a death, and subsequently blew a .08. You would support a minimum of twenty years in prison for that?

Case in point, Dave F!

I just enjoy ripping the guy now because he acts like such a douche. His material has improved, but his attitude in the comments, shotty research and uppity hipster posts are too much to take sometimes. I think if I read some of his more recent posts and articles, NOT knowing who he is, I might like them, but I have to get over my initial reaction whenever i see his name in the byline.

The only crime I see here is that somebody passed up Dogfish for Corona.

While I sympathize with the plaintiff's in this case, this seems like a bizarre way to go about changing existing law. Frankly, it sounds to me as if things played out exactly as they should have in this case (the drunken asshole got 8 years in jail).

I'm kind of curious what sort of law the plaintiff's attorney has in mind. My understanding is that some states will hold a bar liable for the drunken, criminal actions of a patron if they continue to serve alcohol to someone who is clearly intoxicated, and I guess I wouldn't mind seeing a similar law here (though I'm still not convinced this is a proper way to go about it). On the other hand, I would not be in favor of holding bars strictly liable for the drunken, criminal actions of any patron that happens to be drinking in the bar.

I don't know. This just seems like a very haphazzard (not to mention not particularly effective or efficient) way to go about affecting change in the current law here in Maryland.

@richard - depends on a case by case basis but assuming it was 95% this guy's fault, he deserves more than 7 years. then again, it's a classic argument as to whether increased punishment for something like drunk driving / manslaughter cases would ever act as a deterrent for others who might consider getting behind the wheel after 12+ coronas...

We're missing some facts here, too.

What was the guy's BAC? And how many of those drinks did he actually consume?

If he actually had 8-10 Corona's, yeh the bar screwed up. Bar staff hopefully asked him if he had a ride or was staying at a nearby hotel or was getting a cab or something.

If he lied in response, ball is back in his court.

Etc. etc. etc.

Why not sue the manufacturer of Range Rover for not installing a device that would make it impossible for a drunk to start the engine. Dogfish Head serves hundreds of people weekly, many of whom get home without incident.

I don't know if restaurants/bars should be held responsible for what customers do off premises, but I agree that people who kill someone under the influence should face higher consequences. In CA, they reserve the right to charge a 2nd DUI offender who has killed someone with 2nd degree murder, which comes with 50 years to life. If you were stupid enough to drive after already getting caught once, then you are probably going to do it again. I hate to admit it, but a majority of the guys I went to college with had one DUI, and several of them two. I don't think it would be too much to force breathalysers in their cars for 5 years for the first offense. For the second offense, jail time. That might make people think twice about getting smashed and driving home.

Has anyone thought about that this family is only after money? I agree that it is terrible that this child was killed but justice has been served, why would you now go after the bar for any other reason than financial gain? The driver has already been sentenced and found Jesus; this just didn't happen this was 2008. I find it odd that now Dogfish Head is “in the know” (thanks Brewmasters) that this now is coming out. Looking at the article there is little to no way that he could consume 17 beers (crappy or otherwise) and 3 shots in 6 hours and be conscious enough to get out of the parking lot. Not to mention they found empties all through is car is the bar responsible for the drinking I do on my way to and from their establishments too? If you look at my bill from this past weekend when I bought a round and then paid for the last round with cash from my buddies when they rolled out I had 12 beers on my bill…I had 3. With this new law, if I would have gotten in an accident that bars is going to get sued now because it looks like they fed me 12 beers in 3 hours...... And the Law they are looking to pass is a misspelling of Jasmine.

Who goes to the Dogfish head ale house and drinks Corona all night?

"Who goes to the Dogfish head ale house and drinks Corona all night?"

Sounds crazy, but it doesn't surprise me.

Some years ago I was in beer crazy/savy Portland (Oregon) at the Rock Bottom Brewpub there. Unlike a lot of places in Portland, the Rock Bottom offers a couple of low alcohol, lightly flavored beers, just for folkls who typically prefer a cold glass of macro swill. Despite that fact, and despite the fact that they are clearly a brewpub with a large number of their own beers (usually at least 10 including several on cask), the bartender there told me one evening that at least half the customers coming into the pub ask for either a coors lite or bud lite.

So no, that part of the story, while a bit ironic, didn't surprise me at all.

its really tragic that it happened but there are way too many circumstances that this can never work. what if someone has 15 beers at Bar A, but earlier had 3 beers at bar B, but since that person is friends with bar A they say that they were never even at bar A... plus what if a person comes into a bar, has 3 beers, but is going into the bathroom and slugging out of a mini bottle they brought in their pocket.

I could go on all day with instances where this will never work because ALL of your evidence would be pretty circumstantial.

and @ Mark LOL

Cheers, just be responsible when drinking.

Why is it always someeles to blame. No the family was hurt and yes he did it. So a drunk buys beers and has too many did he have more in the parking lot. If he drank all 17 beers he needs to be a world champ. even if it was a Corona. Look we need to hold him and his freinds who let him drive responable.

This guy was already driving on a suspended license, with prior dui's. Should have been in jail in the first place, seems like a court/judge issue.

Hello to all i love this blog

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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