An Urbana family has lost its bid to create a dram shop law in the state of Maryland through a lawsuit filed in the Court of Appeals.
The court, in an opinion released Thursday, ruled that a tavern does not owe a duty to an injured person who is harmed by an intoxicated patron.
The family of Jazimen Warr, who was killed in a high-speed crash on I-270 in 2008 by a person who had been served 20 drinks at a Gaithersburg bar, argued their case before the court in March.
The driver of the Range Rover, Michael D. Eaton, had been forced out of the Dogfish Head Alehouse by employees about 45 minutes earlier after becoming rowdy, according to testimony before the court in March.
Eaton had been served 20 drinks — 17 beers and three shots of liquor — during a nearly six-hour stretch at the bar.
His car was traveling between 88 and 98 mph at the time of the crash, said John Vail, of the Center for Constitutional Litigation, who argued the case on behalf of the family.
After the crash, Eaton ran from his car and took cover at a nearby hotel.
Jazimen was taken by ambulance to Shady Grove Hospital, where she died of her injuries. The Warrs and Cortavia were also taken to hospitals in Montgomery County and Washington, where they were treated for their injuries. A pet dog was also killed in the crash.
Eaton pleaded guilty to manslaughter by vehicle and leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injuries on July 30, 2009. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and has been released, according to online court records.
The family filed a lawsuit against Dogfish Head Alehouse and the corporation that owns the bar in Montgomery County Circuit Court in December 2010.
That judge decided in favor of the bar and JMGM Group LLC, the corporation, citing previous decisions by the Court of Appeals. The judge also wrote that times had changed since the highest court's last opinion on the matter and that bar owners should expect that intoxicated patrons will get into a crash.
The Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals declined three times to create a dram shop law, in 1951, 1981 and 2000, according to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services. In 2011 and 2012, bills to create such a law failed to gain traction in the General Assembly.