The Georgia Supreme Court recently issued an opinion that makes convenience stores accountable when they sell alcohol to a noticeably intoxicated customer. Flores v. Exprezit! Stores 98-Georgia LLC, S10G1652, 11 FCDR 2065 (7/15/11).
The underlying lawsuit involved a serious automobile accident in which six people were killed and several injured by a drunk driver. A few hours before the accident, a convenient store sold a 12-pack of beer to a noticeably intoxicated customer. Shortly thereafter, the customer got behind the wheel, crossed the centerline of a highway, and ran head-on into a van full of passengers traveling the opposite way. The drunk driver’s blood alcohol was 0.181 grams per 100 milliliters, twice the legal limit.
The Court explained that Georgia’s dram shop act applies to convenient stores because it’s reasonably foreseeable that when a convenient store sells alcohol to a visibly intoxicated customer, the convenient store is aware that the customer will soon be drinking and driving. The burden is still on the injured party to prove that the convenient store knew that the customer was “noticeably intoxicated,” but the door is now open for personal injury claims against convenient stores that carelessly sell alcohol.