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Case against bar dismissed due to victim's failure to give notice of fee agreement

Christopher Dirla sued the Seney Spirit Store, alleging owner liability for a rented snowmobile, and Andy's Seney Bar, Inc., alleging that it sold alcohol to Jason Sunkle after he was visibly intoxicated.  Apparently intoxicated, Sunkle ran over Dirla on the rented snowmobile, causing significant injuries, before fleeing the scene.  Dirla hired an attorney who sent notice to the Spirit Store alleging ownership liability for its rented snowmobile, but failing to raise an issue of dramshop liability.  The Dirlas maintained that they only learned that Sunkle was drinking in the Seney Bar from the owner of the bar in response to the owner liability notice.  As a result, the Dirla's formal notice of dramshop liability was sent to the bar 148 days after they signed a fee agreement, and not within the 120 days required by law.  The trial court dismissed the claim and the Court of Appeals upheld this outcome.  It concluded that the Dirlas and their attorneys had failed to comply with the statutory obligation to provide notice, even though they were initially unaware of the potential dramshop claim, the bar owner was actually drinking with the alleged intoxicated person [AIP] on the night in question, and a notice of injury [relating to the snowmobile rental] was timely provided to the Defendant.

So, the Defendant knew the the AIP got drunk in her bar--drinking with her, no less; knew that he caused someone serious injuries; got notice of the injuries in a timely manner, but didn't get the "dramshop notice" until 28 days late--and is therefore allowed to escape responsibility. This passes for justice?

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