Federal Jury Finds in Favor of Applebee's in Case of Drunk Driving Fatality

A jury in a federal civil case rendered a verdict in favor of Applebee's relieving the restaurant chain from any liability for serving alcoholic beverages to a customer who proceeded to kill two women in another vehicle after crashing in to their car. The jury determined that the restaurant had not violated the New Mexico Liquor Control Act when it sold drinks to James Ruiz in 2010.

 

According to testimony elicited at trial, the customer consumed additional alcoholic beverages after going to Applebee's on that evening. Another commercial establishment, Blue Corn Cafe which Mr. Ruiz attended was originally sued for the same violations. The family of the deceased young women settled their claim against the owner of that restaurant and bar.

 

Ironically, Mr. Ruiz himself sued both Applebee's and the other café alleging they over served him.  He also ironically sued the other passenger in his car, a Mr. Mendoza for giving him the keys to his vehicle to drive after he had been drinking. Ruiz himself has said he first began drinking at Applebee's before heading to the nearby Blue Corn Cafe with Mendoza to continue consuming such beverages.

 

The purpose of New Mexico's Liquor Control Act is to encourage bars and restaurants licensed to sell alcoholic beverage commercially to exercise caution in serving alcoholic beverages so as to prevent patrons from driving while intoxicated after they leave the premises. In this instance, Mr. Ruiz had recently received his fifth conviction for the criminal offense of DUI. It does not appear any of the servers at Applebee's knew of his driving record. To the extent that the ownership of the Blue Corn Café put in to place new rules governing how their servers furnish such beverages to customers after this incident, this dram shop statute does provide a deterrent effect. Tragically for the deceased teenagers and their family, this action comes too late.   

 

The attorneys at Giddens & Gatton Law, PC represent individuals in personal injury suits in New Mexico. Giddens & Gatton Law, PC is located at 10400 Academy Road N.E., Suite 350 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Call the office at (505) 633-6298 to set up an appointment or visit the firm's website at giddenslaw.com.   

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