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Articles Posted in Alcohol-related Accidents

When someone is injured in a drunk driving accident, the first instinct is often to seek compensation from the intoxicated driver. Although the driver is certainly one of the sources from which you can recover damages, there may be others. In MA, dram shop liability laws allow victims to seek compensation from a business that over-serves alcohol to an intoxicated person.

A “dram shop” is a business that sells alcohol, and may include bars, nightclubs, social clubs, sporting venues, and liquor stores. Historical note – the term dram shop comes from alcohol’s traditional unit of measure, the dram. A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by a drunk driver who was over-served.

Last year, an Oregon man filed a $3.9 million wrongful death lawsuit against the driver that injured him and killed his father, as well as against the bar that served the visibly-intoxicated driver. The fatal accident was initially a hit and run, but police eventually tracked down the driver. In addition to the driver’s own negligence, the lawsuit alleges that the bar was negligent in over-serving her.

Dram Shop Responsibilities

Those who serve alcohol – bartenders, servers, and liquor store clerks, to name a few – have a responsibility to determine when a patron is visibly intoxicated. They are required to observe slurred speech and other associated behaviors. To do so, they must receive proper training, the provision of which is a requirement of the establishment’s owner. Dram shops in MA typically carry liability insurance to protect themselves in the event that an intoxicated driver leaves their establishment and causes an accident, or in any way harms another.

Wrongful Death Claims and Dram Shops

When a dram shop over-serves a patron and someone is injured as a result, the victim can sue for damages, including pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and other associated costs. If someone is killed, the victim’s family may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the intoxicated driver and the dram shop. In a wrongful death lawsuit, medical expenses may be recovered, as well as damages for funeral costs, the loss of the victim’s income, and loss of consortium. A Boston wrongful death attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve lost a loved one to another’s negligence.

Social Host Laws

In MA, it is against the law to allow a minor (anyone under the age of 21) to consume alcohol on your property. If you are caught doing so, you may face criminal penalties under MA’s social host laws. However, social host laws differ from dram shop laws in that a social host cannot be liable if a guest – adult or minor – becomes intoxicated and harms another. A dram shop case is a civil case in which a business is sued for over-serving someone who, in turn, causes harm to another. A social host case, on the other hand, is a criminal case in which a social host is charged with serving an underage guest on their property. Continue reading

The Angry Bull Saloon, a bar in Hartford, Conn., will not reopen following a tragic incident that occurred on March 3 involving a teenager who fell from the roof level of the building that housed the bar.

An investigation by police concluded that the death of an 18-year-old female was an accident, but the police also believe that the teenager was at the bar before she fell four stories to her death. Toxicology reports have yet to be released, so it is unknown whether or not the teenager was intoxicated at the time of her fall.

The Angry Bull agreed to turn in its liquor license and close its doors during the investigation, and has now officially decided to close indefinitely because the city of Hartford would have imposed costly new security measures as an ultimatum to reopen. As requested by the chief of police, the bar would have had to have paid the city for police details on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, a cost of about $584 a night.

Police reported that the teenager was able to gain access to the bar with a “very good” fake ID, and that she still had a wrist band from the bar on her wrist when she accidentally fell from the fourth-floor of the building. Police said she was able to get onto the roof by simply walking up a set of outdoor stairs and then climbing a ladder up to the roof. It is believed she was alone at the time of the incident.

The Angry Bull had already caught the attention of Hartford police before the tragic incident, as they had been the subject of three referrals to the Liquor Control Commission since November; including two for allegedly allowing underage drinking.

One of these referrals was closed without any action taken, and the other remained under open investigation. According to the Courant, state and local police were in the midst of planning an undercover operation at the bar at the time of the accident.

Many responsible for this tragedy

Although you should never climb to the roof of an unfamiliar building without any supervision or proper safety precautions (and especially not if you have been drinking any amount), it should not have been so easy for a teenager to gain access to a roof that is four stories high. It should not have been possible for an underage person to gain access to a bar, no matter how convincing her fake identification was.

While the bar has done the right thing in closing down their business following such a horrific event, they are still not out of the woods when it comes to liability for the death of the teenager. If it turns out that she was intoxicated at the time of the accident, the owner and bartenders who served the young woman will be in significantly more trouble.

Likewise, the owner of the building that housed the bar would be liable for the tragedy as well, since they did not prevent access from the foreseeable and dangerous situation of somebody gaining access to the roof. Both the owner of the bar and the owner of the building may eventually be taken to court due to their negligence that helped contribute to a death.

Ensuring that your place of business, and ensuring that any property you own, doesn’t become a hazard to those that patronize it is a fundamental responsibility of the individuals that own these properties. Continue reading

If another’s negligence caused a car accident and you were injured, the experience can be emotionally, physically, and financially difficult. If you were pregnant at the time, the experience can be devastating. In the wake of such an occurrence, it’s important to know how to act to protect yourself, your baby, and your financial future.

According to studies, the actions a pregnant woman takes following a motor vehicle collision have a significant impact on the health of her pregnancy. Pregnant women are uniquely vulnerable in any type of collision, even a minor fender bender. Without immediate treatment, trauma from a car accident can result in pre-term labor, hemorrhaging, birth defects, a high-risk situation that did not previously exist, and miscarriage. On a more subtle level, a car accident can result in emotional stress, which can be bad for both mother and baby.

Symptoms to Watch For

If you’ve been involved in a car accident while pregnant, seek immediate medical attention. Although you and your baby may be perfectly fine, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. In addition, if you notice any of the following symptoms following a car accident, contact your physician immediately:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Leaking of vaginal fluid
  • Umbilical cord protrusion (if you believe that the umbilical cord is protruding into your vagina, contact your doctor and immediately get down to your knees, making sure that your buttocks are higher than your head. If your umbilical cord is indeed protruding, this will reduce pressure until help arrives).

Sometimes symptoms don’t present for several days following a car accident. If any of the following symptoms appear days or weeks after a motor vehicle collision, seek medical attention:

  • Swelling of the face
  • Swelling of the fingers
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Constant headaches
  • Pain in abdominal area
  • Pain in shoulder area
  • Fever or chills
  • Vomiting not associated with morning sickness
  • Change in frequency of baby’s movements
  • Painful urination
  • Dizziness

Even when the mother has not suffered physical injury, it is still possible for the fetus to be injured. A contra-coup injury occurs when a concussion or shock is produced by a blow or jolt to another area of the body. For example, a violent stopping motion could jostle the baby within the mother’s womb, resulting in a concussion to the baby. If you have been involved in a car accident while pregnant, contact a Boston car accident lawyer today.

If another drivers’ negligence caused you harm, it’s in your best interest to seek the counsel of an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney. In addition to helping you obtain the compensation you deserve, a skilled attorney can help reduce the stressful impact of legal proceedings and dealing with insurance companies at a time when you should be focused on your health, and the health of your baby. Continue reading

You’re the parent of a Massachusetts high school student and have done a tremendous job so far of encouraging your child to always be honest and always ask you questions, even the ones that make you uncomfortable. One day, you get a question you never truly expected to get: “Mom, dad, I want to invite over a few friends. They were going to drink, so I thought it would be safer for us to do it here. Is that okay?”  You know that your child is a good kid, and you know that teenagers will probably find a place to drink anyways, so you agree. After all, you’ll supervise the party and make sure that nothing goes wrong, right? By 2:00 a.m., the party has died down and mostly all of the teens are asleep. You feel like the coolest parent on the block and you finally allow yourself to go to bed.

In the morning you are jolted awake by a call from the police. One of your child’s intoxicated friends snuck out shortly after you dozed off and got into a severe car accident with another motorist. The child survived but the other driver was injured. Not only was your decision to host an underage drinking party illegal, you are also now completely liable for both the injured teenager and any action taken by the driver’s family.

Providing alcohol or a place to drink for anyone under 21 is illegal

Massachusetts has strong laws on the books about “furnishing” alcohol to any individual under the age of 21. To furnish means to knowingly and intentionally supply, give, or allow the possession of alcohol to those under 21. If found guilty perpetrators can face up to a $2,000 fine and up to a year in prison, not to mention the thousands, or potentially millions, of dollars in civil suits that could follow.  Adults will be liable for any individual who gets drunk on their property – even if it’s a rented hotel room – and proceeds to cause damage or harm to any property or other individual. Homeowners insurance likely won’t cover these costs, especially if the intoxicated, underage individual causes damage or harm after getting behind the wheel of a car.

While parents might think that they are being cool and responsible by keeping a close eye on the activity, underage drinking is still underage drinking. The better approach is to always talk with your child about the dangers of underage drinking and what the consequences of such actions could be. While you can’t control every action your child makes, you can always control what goes on in your own home. Continue reading

With August in full swing, many recreational boaters are taking as much advantage of the remaining boating season as possible. The final weeks of summer recreation have increased potential for unfortunate accidents involving drinking and boating. The US Coast Guard’s Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety reports alcohol use as the leading factor in boating fatalities in Massachusetts, despite persistent warnings from safety officials. Many boaters tend to dismiss the effects of sun, wind, heat, and motion in combination with even a minimum amount of alcohol consumption. The cultural perception of drinking while boating coincides with the concept of leisure, relaxation, and celebration. However, drinking and boating has been perceived by many law enforcement officials as more dangerous than drinking and driving.

Penalties for Boating Under the Influence

Massachusetts has some of the strictest penalties for boating under the influence (BUI) in the United States. Repercussions from “boozing and boating” are the same as those for receiving a DUI (driving under the influence). These penalties apply to the influence of other substances as well, including narcotics, stimulants, depressants, marijuana, or any combination of these. As with motor vehicles, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for operating a vessel is 0.08.

Legal consequences are dependent on factors like the defendant’s legal history and damages and injuries incurred due to the accident:

  • First time offense – If charged, the defendant may receive a maximum of one and a half years of prison time, or a maximum $1,000 fine, or both. Both motor vehicle and vessel licenses may be revoked for up to a year.
  • Second offense within six years – While the maximum fine remains at $1,000, maximum prison time increases to two and a half years.
  • Penalties increase with consecutive offenses and increased severity of injuries to others.

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If you are injured by someone whose intoxication is a result of being over-served at a bar, restaurant, or nightclub, you can hold the establishment civilly liable in the state of Massachusetts. This is known as a “dram shop claim,” and it can also apply to social hosts who serve alcohol at a party or other event.

Massachusetts prohibits all alcohol vendors from selling or serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. Doing so can make the vendor liable for negligence. However, the injured person must show that the vendor continued serving alcohol to the visibly intoxicated individual. For example, if the person sitting next to you is still ordering drinks even though his speech is slurred, you can file a personal injury claim if you’re injured when he falls from his barstool and knocks you over. You can also file a dram shop claim against the bar.

Social Hosts

Bar owners and servers are supposed to be professionally trained to detect when a patron is visibly intoxicated. But what about social hosts? If you are injured when an intoxicated guest leaves your neighbor’s birthday party, can you hold your neighbor liable? The short answer is “no.” With very few exceptions, the only way a social host can be held liable for serving alcohol is if he or she serves minors under the age of 21.

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With the school year only a few weeks away, we can’t help but think about the myriad of cases on schools and school-aged children that we have defended these 50 years at our family-serving legal office. Being parents, we would like to offer some safety advice, with the hope that this new academic year turns out to be an enjoyable and enriching experience.

Recently Gov. Patrick declared a public health emergency in Massachusetts for the rapidly growing opioid addiction rates. From 2000 to 2012, the number of unintentional opioid overdoses rose by 90%. In the state, a person who consumes opioids is three times more likely to die than a drunk driver. Undoubtedly, this has raised concern among parents about the availability of opioids and other drugs at schools and popular places where children come together.

The law aims to limit access to drugs by minors. According to the Controlled Substances Act, it is illegal to sell, consume or possess drugs, drug paraphernalia including tobacco rolling papers or alcohol within 300 feet of schools, whether public or private, up to secondary school. In 2011 Gov. Patrick tried to reduce this space to 100 feet, though thankfully, without success.

Based on the reported cases in Massachusetts, in 2012 marijuana and alcohol were the most popular drugs among teenagers younger than 18, and also the substances for which they most often sought treatment. Most teenagers start using these substances before reaching high school: the mean age of first alcohol use was 13.2 years, while for marijuana, it was 12.8 years.

How does the law limit access and possession of these substances by minors?
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The family of Debra Davis has reached a Foxboro, MA wrongful death settlement with Kraft Group over the tragic traffic crash that happened after a concert at Gillette Stadium in 2008. The terms of the deal are confidential.

Davis, a 20-year-old Milton woman, and her friend Alexa Latteo, a 19-year-old Mansfield resident, were killed when the vehicle that Latteo was driving on July 26, 2008 crashed into a tree after the New England Country Music Festival. Both women died in the Foxboro car crash. A third woman riding in the rear seat survived with serious injuries.

Davis’s parents claimed that the stadium’s security was so lax that underage drinkers were able to consume alcohol in the parking lot even though they didn’t have tickets to attend the event. (A policy had been specifically implemented at the stadium in 2007 to deter such behavior.)

With summer still in full force, we would like to remind you to be responsible when hosting get-togethers this season. Whether you’re hosting a graduation party, barbeque, or any kind of social get-together where alcohol is being served, you bare a huge responsibility to your guests and their safety.

Massachusetts Social Host Liability Law is an extremely important subject, because what many people do not realize is that the actions of their guests, even after a guest has left the party, may fall under the responsibility of the host.

What is Massachusetts Social Host Liability Law?

In Massachusetts, a social host is anyone who provides alcohol to a guest, as an act of hospitality without exchanging money. A social host is also considered someone who not only provides alcohol for his or her guests, but allows a guest to consume alcohol on his or her property. While the property that is involved is usually someone’s home, properties can also include beach property, rental property, and even boats-essentially any property that a host owns or controls. Under Massachusetts law, by furnishing alcohol and permitting guests to consume it on his or her property, the host assumes liability. Hosts are not always adults, and can include minors as well.

According to Massachusetts Social Host Liability Law, liability includes all injuries caused by alcohol by both the person who caused the accident as well as the person who served the alcohol. The most common type of accident is drunk driving. According to the Massachusetts judicial system hosts are responsible for making sure their guests do not consume alcohol to the point of intoxication. For example, if you host a party and one of your guests is over-served and winds up injuring another person as a result of drunk driving, not only is he at fault, but you are responsible as well.

Social Host Liability Law and Minors

criminal-defense.jpgMassachusetts is very clear about laws on underage drinking. Anyone under the age of 21 is not allowed to consume alcohol. Period. As a parent, it may be tempting to allow your underage son or daughter to have friends over for a party, especially during prom or graduation season, or if your son or daughter is home from college. Taking the keys and requiring guests to sleepover is not the way to prevent minors from getting hurt because of alcohol. Even if a minor injures him or herself without driving, you are still responsible for providing a place to consume alcohol, condoning its consumption, and supplying the beverages. Under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 138, Section 34, any person who supplies alcohol to a person under 21 is subject to a $2,000 fine and faces up to a year of imprisonment.

A common concern many parents with teenagers have is what to do if their underage child has a party while they’re not at home. There is potential that the parents can be held responsible, whether or not a guest is injured. However, Massachusetts law does not attach civil liability if the parents of the accused minor did not supply the alcohol that was consumed. Simply put, a parent who supplied the alcohol that was consumed at the underage party is liable, whether knowingly or unknowingly, is responsible. However a parent who did not supply the alcohol at the party (if for instance the minors brought his/her own alcohol), and had no knowledge of the party, would not be held liable. Another issue to be aware of is that you may be civilly liable if your underage child drinks at another person’s house and then injures someone, under the circumstance that you previously gave either explicit or tacit permission for them to consume
alcohol at someone else’s party.
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