The devils water

Dear All,

Being Irish and all that this question has often kept my friends and I “discussing” answers. If, as has already been shown, you live in America and you spill a hot coffee on you say from Mc D’s you can sue. If you get in a car drunk and drive it you are liable. If you light up a cig and smoke it, get lung cancer, you can sue. So the question I want answered is if I drink several pints of beer then fall over and cut my head because I am drunk can I sue. I ask any answer to take into consideration that when you buy a beer it does not, and the barman does not, say this can cause drowsiness/loss of attention etc etc such as on the back of sleeping tablets boxes and, when you buy a six pack in the supermarket, the cashier does not advise you either. So could I take the Budweiser company to court over all the abuse my body has suffered due to their product.

Thanking you in advance,

Paddy Irishman

Yes. In America, you can sue anybody for anything.

Might be of interest to our new paddy (welcome, BTW) to realise that, outside of the US, Ireland has the most prolific litigious society (for injury claims) in the world, by population.

(Although I admit I only heard this from a friend who works in insurance claims, and thus have no verifiable cite)

There have been cases where people sued bars because they were injured elsewhere while drunk. The one I recall (but can’t cite) involved an auto accident. The bar was sued because they had allegedly continued to serve an obviously drunk person when they (allegedly) should have cut him off and sent him home in a cab.

As DDG says, you can sue anyone for anything. I could sue a bar for serving me a drink which might cause me long-term health problems. I’d lose (I hope, given my naive faith in the justice system), but I can still bring the suit. IMO, this is a deplorable displacement of personal responsibility, but if we cart this off to GD I’m sure someone could explain to me how society is better this way.

You can sue the tobacco company if you’ve been smoking since they had doctors telling you its okay yo smoke because back then you didn’t know any better and now your addicted. You used to be able to sue McDonals becuase they didn’t right careful contaents hot on the side of the cup. You ususally can’t sue the bar because most of the time if you get into an accident your leaving that bar to drive to another. Or you killed some one because you refused the cab ride home. I think you can sue the bar though if you cut open your head in thier bar though. They should have kept the place clean. Hey i’m not a lawyer so I might be wrong. Welcome to the SD

Most states in the U.S. have some version of the “dram shop” law - the original versions of these were enacted back in the 1880’s, during the start of the prohibition movement, hence the archaic name, but they have recently become popular again as a regulatory measure against establishments that serve alcohol by the drink.

In the abstract, these laws require two things:


[li] An establishment serving by the drink must refuse all service to a person who appears to be drunk or impaired, regardless of their own wishes.[/li]
[li] If such establishments serve intoxicated persons, or do not prevent them from continuing to procure alcoholic drinks, they can be held civilly liable for any of the intoxicated party’s actions, if the they were reasonably able to prevent the person in question from becoming impaired.[/li]

For example, if a drunk driver leaves a bar, runs someone over, and crashes his car into a wall, both the family of the victim and the driver have a tort against the bar - the former for cotributing to injury or wrongful death, the latter for contributing to the destruction of the drunkard’s property. This doesn’t apply to package liquor stores that sell for home consumption, or to the producers of the alcoholic beverages, but only specifically to alcoholic beverages poured by the drink. Most such establishments (the well-run ones, in any case) nowadays train their servers, bartenders, and management extensively in how to ascertain with their own judgement whether a person is likely impaired, so that they do not run afoul of the dram shop law.

IANAL, however, I do work in the liquor industry (I manage a package store).

When i worked in the hospitality industry, we all had to attend state-mandated one-day workshops on serving alcohol. IIRC, the state of New South Wales (Australia) has legislation that can hold a bartender or waiter criminally responsible if a customer does something like driving drunk and the server should reasonably have known that the person was drunk. We were told it was illegal to serve anyone who appeared to be intoxicated.

As you might imagine, however, refusing to serve such customers does not exactly go over very well with the owner/manager of the bar.

I was wondering, actually, how this might apply in the US. Some people will remember the fuss a month or so ago, when police in Virginia arrested a bunch of people for being drunk in bars. Were the owners or employees of the bar charged also? Is there any law that holds them responsible for serving enough alcohol to make someone drunk?

My co-worker told me he intends to sue the makers of Miller Lite beer. He holds them responsible for all the ugly women he, in an impaired state, took to bed.

As others here have said, you can sue for anything. However, judges are free to throw out frivolous and ridiculous suits.

Reminds me of a (very possibly fake, but still amusing) suit in which a guy ordered a pizza without anchovies, and when it arrived ,they’d accidentally included them anyway. He sued them for emoitional damage, and the price of the pizza.

It was thrown out, but I still chuckle at it.

Facts about the McDonald’s Coffee Lawsuit – Short version: McDonald’s sold coffee capable of causing third-degree burns through clothing. That coffee severely injured a woman. They lost the lawsuit.

It wasn’t in any way a frivolous lawsuit.

(I say this because, invaraibly, some infinite wit will drag the OP’s mention of the suit and turn them into a polemic against personal injury lawsuits in general.)

The posts by AskNott and Some Guy are on target.

Yes, you can sue for pretty much anything. You just can’t win every suit.

It is my understanding that in Ireland, also a common law country, it works the same way.

The system pretty well has to work that way. The alternative would be to come up with an exact and comprehensive list of all possible torts which will be recognized, now and forever in the future. This is not practical.

The first man to ever sue for medical malpractice was an Englishman who had his deliberately leg broken, without his permission, by a quack doctor. It left him deformed for life. He won his suit. There was no such tort as “medical malpractice” in any law book when he sued. Would it have been right to tell him that it was his tough luck that Parliament had not thought in advance of passing a law entitling him to sue a nutball doctor who crippled him?

As society has evolved, so has ideas about what constitutes a wrong for which compensation should be given. Today in the U.S. a parent can sue for the costs of psychiatric care after they see a drunk driver run over their child and drag him to death. That is called “negligent infliction of emotional harm”–and it is a tort which was not recognized until a few decades ago.

In the mid-1980s a woman in St. Louis successfully sued her estranged husband after he deliberately shot her in the back. What makes this case remarkable is that until that case, it had consistently held in Missouri that a person could not sue his or her spouse for trying to kill them.

There have been cases where people have tried to sue beer and liquor manufacturers for the harm their own abuse of alcohol did them. In one celebrated case, a man sued Coors for having “pickled his brain”. The suit was, of course, dismissed by the court as frivolous.

Tort lawyers and the tort system are favorite boogie men for the popular press in America. (I say this as a lawyer who has never practiced tort law). Suits are often reported in a misleading fashion to make them seem sensational or absurd. The reportage on the famous case in which a woman sued and won against the McDonald’s Corporation for serving her overly hot coffee is a case in point.

Imagine this: you go to a drive up window and order coffee. The snot-nosed punks behind the counter decide it would be an amusing joke to fire up the coffee so hot that it is literally boiling. Then one of them carefully picks the container up by the plastic lid so as not to burn himself and hands it to you. You are an elderly woman. The heat is so severe when you put your hand on the cup that you drop it and the coffee falls in your lap, scalding you. You are burned so severely that you require immediate medical attention, as people can–and, in fact, do–die from severe burns of this kind if they go untreated, either because their exposed flesh is so subject to infection, or because of the toxicity of the flesh that has been burned.

Are you really going to say: “Ah, a fine joke to play on a friend! Think nothing of it!”

As for the cigarette suits, consider that they in the main concern people who: (1) Used an addictive product at a time when it was not widely known to be addictive. (2) Used a product which causes cancer and other deadly health conditions at a time when this was not widely known, or was still a matter of intense scientific controversy. (3) Bought these addictive products from manufacturers who have been proven to have known that their product was addictive and to have deliberately taken steps to make it more addictive and to have known that their product caused deadly conditions but choseto lie about it, and to have caused a scientific controversy over the efrfects of their product by sponsoring bogus scientific research which concealed the dangers of their product.

Ah yes: a fine joke to play on a friend…

To add to slipster’s comments, there are those who maintain out that Very Big Corporations (such as MickeyDs and Reynolds) are actively funding efforts to change tort laws to make it more difficult to file and win these kinds of lawsuits. Remember, MickeyDs isn’t going to be suing you for something like this, so it’s in their interest to make it more difficult. And they can afford to spend an awful lot on lobbying and public relations if it spares them just one lawsuit from someone who got sick from contaminated beef in a burger.
Part of these efforts is a campaign to convince everyone that the current system is out of control, by publicizing lawsuits in a way designed to make them seem outrageous.

Ditto mhendo - in one bar in Sydney they wouldn’t even sell anything bigger than a double shot per drink. Anyone intoxicated was turned away.

This was used by the racist barman to not serve the lovely crowd of blackfellas (their name for themselves - a mixed group of Fijiians, Tongans, Samoans and Maoris) that used to peacefully frequent the public bar.

Yes. I think that, if there’s anything wrong with the current system, it can be fixed by making it clearer to judges and juries (maybe by legislation, maybe just by training) what does and does not constitute a frivolous lawsuit. There certainly are plenty of suits that should be dismissed, but there are also plenty that make a reasonable case for being heard.

But the blanket “tort reform” being sought by certain lobbyists and legislators is little more, in many cases, than a desire to shield certain individuals, professional groups and corporations from the consequences of their negligence and even their illegal practices. Calling it tort “reform” gives the whole process a veneer of respectability, and makes it sound like it’s being done in the general public interest. But often, that is not the case.

This is getting a bit OT and may belong in GD, but I’d just point out that not all proponents of tort reform are big three-letter corps. I run a (very) small business and I’ve been faced with frivolous lawsuits. In many cases, a client on a project will sue everyone involved. Even if I’m a subcontractor who was responsible for a part of the project completely unrelated to the cause of the suit, I’m dragged into the case because their greed allows them to justify forcing my insurance company to settle for some dollar amount just short of what it would cost to go to court and prove we’re not liable. This issue effects a huge number of small businesses and our backing reform has nothing to do with us trying to sheild ourselves from legitimate liability. It’s the blanket opponents of reform that seem to ignore the existence of frivolous suits and the amount of money they cost real people that are not serving the public interest, IMO.