In May, an eight-year-old boy with a heart defect was mistakenly served
a hard root beer with an alcohol content of 5.9% at a T.G.I. Fridays in
Las Vegas. Since then, this story has gone viral on the internet, and
has raised questions about the restaurant’s liability. Is an “honest
mistake” by a new bartender enough for a lawsuit? Attorney Thomas
Simeone was recently quoted in an article on liquor liability and weighed
in on the cost of underage service.
"To have a successful lawsuit, you need to prove that the restaurant
was negligent – i.e., failed to act reasonably. Here, the restaurant
admits that it made a mistake; that is sufficient to prove it was their
fault," Mr. Simeone notes. However, because it does not appear that
the child was significantly injured by this mistake, the likelihood of
a lawsuit is fairly low because there are few damages to recoup.
Typically, a plaintiff needs to be able to prove that the establishment
knew that a person was under the age of 21 and yet sold them alcohol anyway.
Obviously, in this case the employee knew that the young boy was underage,
and likely did not
intend to serve him an alcoholic beverage, but Mr. Simeone believes that the
family may still have grounds to sue.
According to Mr. Simeone, most civil trials take approximately one year
to 18 months, “depending on the number of witnesses and parties,
complexity of the legal issues, and the amount of evidence that must be
accumulated and exchanged.” A restaurant facing a lawsuit must be
prepared for a steep price tag, which includes court filing fees, depositions,
and expert witnesses. Cases that make it all the way to trial could end
up costing as much as $10,000. With this much to lose, restaurants should
absolutely protect themselves with liquor liability insurance, which can
cover attorney fees and other legal bills.
What Happens When a Liquor Liability Mistake Goes Viral from
Insureon can be viewed online for more information.
To get in touch with Mr. Simeone or another attorney at Simeone & Miller,
LLP, LLP, please call our office at (202) 888-0872.