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Thomas Simeone Weighs in on Liability for Serving an 8-Year-Old Alcohol

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.