What You Need To Know About South Carolina’s Dram Shop Law

What You Need To Know About South Carolina’s Dram Shop LawDrunk drivers are a danger to everyone on the road, including themselves. For that reason, many states pass what are known as “dram shop” laws, or “social host” liability laws. In essence, dram shop and social host liability statutes say that if an establishment (like a bar or restaurant) or a person (like a party host) serves alcohol to a driver, and then knowingly allows that driver to get behind the wheel while he or she is drunk, the people who sustain injuries as a result of the drunk driver may be able to sue the establishment or host for compensation.

South Carolina does not have dram shop laws specifically, but its courts have, historically, allowed injury victims to seek compensation from bars or restaurants that overserve their patrons and then allow them to get behind the wheel. Recently, a high profile drunk driving accident that killed three and left two seriously injured in 2014, was back in the headlines again. Riley McDermott, a 25-year-old former Anderson University assistant baseball coach, pled guilty to three counts of felony DUI with death and two counts of felony DUI with injury in April. In mid-August, the most recent civil suit related to the accident was filed by Nicole Queen on behalf of her daughter, Cheyenne, who was seriously injured in the wreck.

The facts of the case

Riley McDermott and a fellow coach had been out drinking at the Anderson Hooter’s and a bar called The Bench for more than five hours before McDermott got behind the wheel. His blood alcohol level was .289, more than triple the legal limit. McDermott was traveling 73mph in a 35mph zone when he crossed the centerline and caused the head-on collision.

Cheyenne, who was just 11 years old when the crash happened, survived because first responders performed an emergency tracheotomy at the scene. She was hospitalized for almost four months, and suffered a traumatic brain injury that will affect her for the rest of her life. Her medical bills so far total more than $800,000, and the estimate for continuing care runs in to millions. She is back in school, but is in a special needs program because of the severe memory deficits she continues to suffer.

The lawsuit that Nicole Queen filed on Cheyenne’s behalf names Riley McDermott, Hooters of America LLC, Hooters of Anderson LLC, and the Bench LLC, which is why these would be considered dram shop-style lawsuits. In this case, Hooters and The Bench are considered social hosts.

Under the established decisions, these bars normally might not be held liable under because McDermott was over 21 at the time of the accident. However, in this case, employees and managers at both establishments continued to serve a visibly intoxicated person in violation of local, county and state regulations.

In addition, NBC WYFF 4 reported, “The lawsuit says that managers and employees of both bars interacted with McDermott and knew he was drunk and continued to serve him. It also says Hooters and The Bench have policies requiring employees to get alternative transportation for patrons who appear to be drunk.”

Because there is no specific act, there is always a possibility that an establishment can be held liable for causing a drunk driving wreck. Filing a claim quickly can be the difference between winning and losing a case.

If you or your loved one was injured in a drunk driving crash, the experienced South Carolina auto accident attorneys at McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC can evaluate your case and help get you the compensation you deserve. Don’t delay; call 803-327-7800 or contact us today for a free consultation.