Cutting off the tap to drunks is a messy business

Star Tribune, by Curt BrownMarch 26, 2010

Star Tribune, by Curt Brown

Suing the servers

One of the most powerful weapons against bars that serve drunken patrons is the so-called dram shop act, a state law that allows someone to sue a bar or other business for illegally serving alcohol to someone who later dies or suffers an injury.

Attorneys said dram-shop cases rarely go to juries. The bulk of claims are settled out of court, with insurance lawyers negotiating payouts for bars -- almost always on the condition of confidentiality.

"From a public policy perspective, the confidentiality is a bad idea because it doesn't serve as a deterrent for future similar conduct," said attorney Cory Whalen, who sued the Big Ten Supper Club in Arden Hills after a patron crashed into a squad car in 2008 and killed a Ramsey County deputy's wife who was riding with him, a case settled out of court.

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