ROCKVILLE – Maryland Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-15) plans to reintroduce legislation that would hold alcohol licensees or licensees’ employees civilly liable if a visibly intoxicated person leaves the establishment and injures someone drinking and driving.
“My position is, if we’ve given you a license, you have a responsibility to the public,” Dumais said.
As of Dec. 30, 10 out of 37 fatal collisions in the County are alcohol-related, said Montgomery County Police Capt.Thomas Didone.
In 2014, 11 of 33 fatal collisions were alcohol-related, and in 2013, 12 out of 37 collisions involved alcohol, Didone said.
He said in alcohol-related cases, it does not always mean the driver was intoxicated, but the others involved may have been intoxicated.
He said there is a possibility of additional cases, but the department is waiting on blood toxicology results to confirm whether alcohol was involved.
Dumais said there is a year limitation from the day of the accident for a person to sue the business.
She said the bill does not clarify what “visibly intoxicated” means because the person serving the alcohol has a responsibility to know when a patron is drunk.
Dumais introduced the bill in 2011 after an attorney, representing the grandparents of Jazimen Warr, reached out to her after a drunken driving accident resulted in the of the 10-year-old in 2008.
The driver of the vehicle had been driving at the Dogfish Head Alehouse left the establishment and hit the vehicle the child was in on I-270.
Dumais found legislation had not been introduced in almost 20 years.
There are no laws targeting the issue of over-serving, said Andy Bederman, lawyer with Greenberg and Bederman, LLC.
“How many people have to die before something happens?” Bederman said.
He said legislation aimed at reducing drunken driving has failed the last several years.
“We are one of eight states that don’t have laws like this,” Bederman said.
He said this law would “force” business owners to “exercise a little more caution” when serving customers.
When she introduced the bill, she said her biggest opponents were business owners and insurance companies because of claims that liability would “significantly” increase.
Dumais said the law would not hold the DLC or County liable for lawsuits because no one from this department directly sells alcohol to intoxicated patrons.
“The DLC is never in the position of selling alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person,” Dumais said.
In 2015, 1,009 establishments have liquor licenses and in 2014, 996 establishments were licensed, according to Kathie Durbin, with the DLC.
She said 995 establishments were licensed in 2013.
The licenses must be renewed every four years after the licensee and or employee completes training courses to be approved.
County Executive Ike Leggett announced his support on Dec. 15 for the law.
Leggett spoke at 4th District County police officer Noah Leotta’s funeral service on Dec. 15 after he was hit by a vehicle on Dec.3.
As of Dec. 31, police had not charged the suspect because they are waiting for the blood toxicology results, said Officer Rick Goodale, a spokesperson for the department.
Police took the suspect into custody on the suspicion of drunken driving charges.
Leggett said Leotta’s death could have been prevented if this law or other measures to prevent drunken driving were in place.
Thirty states have some variation of the law.