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More protection for bars: fewer rights for the victims of drunks

  In Bergman v. Ron's American House, dba Johnny's Tavern, the Court of Appeals was forced to follow in the footsteps of the activist Engler Majority on the Supreme Court of Michigan, when it dismissed a claim brought by the parents of a 15 year old boy who was killed by a drunk driver, against the bar where a drunk was served.  The Court held that despite evidence to the contrary, it was not a question of fact whether the drunk was "visibly" intoxicated when he was served.

    In Reed v. Breton, the Engler Majority reversed preexisting law and required eye-witness testimony to corroborate that the drunk was "visibly" drunk, even if his blood alcohol was three or four times the legal level.  As you can imagine, it is virtually impossible to secure this kind of testimony from the bar patron one stool down, at his "regular watering hole".  In 30 years of this business, we can count on one hand the number of times when another patron has confirmed visible intoxication against the interests of his friends and bartender.  The net effect is to remove one more area of evidentiary consideration from the province of the jury:  even if the drunk is .25 and an expert confirms a 95 percent likelihood that he was "visibly" intoxicated, the case must be dismissed unless one of his buddies rats him out.  And now, even corroborating testimony from other witnesses may not be enough to allow a fair decision by a jury.  This kind of decision making (like the new restrictions on serious impairment and on "open and obvious") makes a mockery of innocent victims' right to a jury trial and is blatant judicial activism.

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