Georgia Convenience Stores Can Be Held Responsible for Selling Alcohol to Intoxicated People

According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2,597 people were killed in United States traffic accidents in December 2010. Of those, 775 deaths involved alcohol-impaired drivers.

Georgia's Driving Under the Influence Laws are complex. Clayton County DUI injury attorney Shane Smith can sort through the intermingled laws that potentially create complications in a DUI case.

The Georgia Supreme Court found that a convenience store can be held responsible if it sells alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who subsequently causes an accident. The decision in Flores et al. v. Exprezit! Stores 98-Georgia, LLC clarified Georgia's Dram Shop Act which provides that a person who sells, furnishes, or serves alcohol to an intoxicated person of lawful drinking age shall not be liable for injury, death, or damage that person causes because of their intoxication. The Dram Shop Act also holds that someone may become liable if they knowingly sell alcohol to a noticeably intoxicated person when they know that person will soon be driving. These two provisions created some confusion.

The original lawsuit involved a Clinch County convenience store that sold a 12-pack of beer to a visibly intoxicated man. Roughly four hours after the purchase, the man's vehicle crossed the center lane on a highway and collided head-on with a van. The accident killed the intoxicated man and five people in the van, including two children under six years old. The man's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of the accident was twice the legal limit.

The Georgia Supreme Court's 6-1 ruling overturned a ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals that the store was not responsible because the alcohol was not sold for consumption on the premises. The Supreme Court criticized the Court of Appeals for refusing to apply the Dram Shop Act to off-premise sales. The Supreme Court stated in its ruling, "That would mean that a convenience store cannot be held liable for selling closed or packaged alcoholic beverages to a noticeably intoxicated adult under any circumstances. We cannot accept this interpretation of the statute."

If you have questions about Georgia DUI laws, get the answers in Clayton County DUI injury attorney Shane Smith's book, I Was Hit By a Drunk Driver: What Do I Do Next? Contact Shane Smith Law to schedule a free legal consultation.

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