Schedule a Consultation | Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Trial lawyers specializing in personal injury and civil litigation

Activist judges continue to invalidate the dramshop law

So, a guy comes to the bar after a wedding reception where he's had between 8 and 12 drinks (depending on who you believe and whether you accept the science of toxicology), stays a few hours until closing time, drinks a few beers at the bar, "could feel the alcohol," is described by companions as "intoxicated and belligerent," and an "out of control drunk, that night,"  has "glossy and...irritable eyes, slaps around a couple of women at the entryway, and then beats up a man who asks him to move his fistfight so that the man can move his car to pick up his wife.  Should the bar have to defend the claim that it "served him while visibly intoxicated" thus violating Michigan's dramshop law?  Not if the man is fortunate enough to draw a couple of special-interest friendly judges.

Jeffrey Mindykowski is the victim who got beat up after walking to his car with a friend, leaving their wives at the Alpena Hotel entryway.  No one claims that he was anything other than the innocent victim of a drunken idiot who had misbehaved for some time at the Alpena Hotel.  And the trial judge ruled that there was clearly a question of fact for jurors to decide whether the bar should be required to defend its actions before a jury.  The hotel's insurer appealed when it wasn't granted summary disposition and Judges Kathleen Jansen and Patrick M. Meter reversed the trial judge and granted summary disposition.

They first noted technical deficiencies in the Mindykowski's response to the motion for summary disposition (and, oh, by-the-way, refused Mindykowski's attorneys the right to substitute a signed affidavit for the unsigned original filing).  Then they concluded that there wasn't enough evidence of visible intoxication to create a material issue of fact for reasonable jurors to rely upon.  Then they ruled that the drunk's drunken, aggressive behavior at the bar and in the parking lot--involving several people, apparently, for many minutes--was not "bad" enough to impose a duty on the bar to call the police before someone was hurt.

This kind of absurd decision was made possible by a recent majority decision of the Michigan Supreme Court's Republican majority.  In that case, the Justices ruled that victims could no longer enforce the statute by establishing a drunk's blood alcohol--and that intoxication was "visible." Instead, the victim must now find one of the drunk's drinking buddies, normally, to contradict the bar employee's testimony that "no one appeared to be drunk."  And apparently, for some judges, even that corroborative proof from a companion isn't enough to drive a wedge between political allies.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262