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NFL vendor sued for wrongful death after drunk fan causes crash

For better or for worse, beer and liquor are an integral part of the sports fan experience for many people. Few tailgates would be complete without plenty of drinks, no matter how early kickoff is. And when it’s game time, most professional sports arenas in the U.S. offer more alcoholic beverages for sale.

Most fans know their limit, and to have a designated driver, so that they do not drink and drive. But what if someone goes to an NFL game, drinks too much and then kills someone in a DUI accident later that same day? Does the company that provided the alcohol bear some responsibility for the death?

Under dram shop laws, such as the one in Mississippi, it might. A typical dram shop law says that a bar, restaurant or social host who allows an obviously intoxicated person to keep drinking could be liable for any injuries that person causes in a car accident.

A woman is suing the food and drink vendor for the Indianapolis Colts for wrongful death in connection with a fatal car accident suffered by her daughter. Her death took place after the Colts played a home game in December 2010, a game attended by a man who purchased at least five beers from the concession stands.

After the game, he was driving his SUV when, according to police, he took his eyes off the road to change the CD in his stereo. His SUV drifted off the road and onto the shoulder, where the victim was walking with her cousin.

The driver later pleaded guilty to criminal charges. But the mother’s lawsuit focuses at least in part on the stadium’s concession stands. The Colts contract with a company called Centerplate to serve food and beverages. In turn, Centerplate hires volunteers who are raising money for various organizations. They are paid on commission, getting 8 percent of each alcoholic drink sold.

It is a common practice, but one that some critics say encourages the volunteers to sell as much beer, wine and alcohol as possible, even when the buyer is clearly drunk. Depending on the results of this wrongful death case, vendors such as Centerplate may change their policies.

Source: Courier-Journal, “ Mom takes on Colts’ stadium vendor over beer sales, daughter’s death,” Vic Ryckaert, Dec. 22, 2013

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