Beware Of Boozy Patrons (NY)

Owners of establishments that serve alcohol must be conscious and wary of selling alcohol to those who have had too much to drink.  Sullivan v. Mulinos of Westchester reaffirms the Dram Shop Act’s purpose to prevent such establishments from escaping liability for their blatant disregard for a person’s visible intoxication.

Sullivan died after he lost control of his car, struck a lamp pole, went over a guardrail and plunged into the Hudson River.  He was allegedly intoxicated and had patronized Mulinos’ establishment and Trotters Tavern.  Sullivan’s estate sued Mulinos and Trotters Tavern under the Dram Shop Act based on a claim that they had sold alcohol to Sullivan while he was visibly intoxicated.

During trial, testimony was elicited from several witnesses who had been with Sullivan at Mulinos and later drove him to Trotters Tavern.  According to the witnesses, Sullivan had consumed numerous drinks before leaving Mulinos and was visibly intoxicated.  Despite this, the trial court granted a directed verdict for the defendants at the close of evidence.

On appeal, the Second Department found that there was a reasonable connection between Mulinos’ alleged unlawful sale of alcohol and the resulting damages.  Similarly, the court found that the evidence was sufficient to establish that Trotters Tavern served Sullivan while he was visibly intoxicated.  Thus, the court held that the matter should have been submitted to a jury as to whether the defendants violated the Dram Shop Act.

Special thanks to Lora Gleicher for her contribution to this post.  For more information, please contact Nicole Y. Brown at nbrown@wcmlaw.com.