The family of Eric Munsell, the 24-year-old Boston man who drowned in Boston Harbor in February 2014, has sued the Financial District bar that ousted him.
According to Boston Globe staff writer Amanda Hoover and the wrongful death suit, Munsell was kicked out of the Market bar and lounge after a bouncer saw him drunkenly stumbling and bumping into other customers. Despite the below-freezing temperatures, the bouncers, allegedly, refused to allow Munsell to retrieve his coat or tell his friends he was leaving the bar. The suit claims that the establishment “kicked him out and left him to ‘fend for himself.’”
According to the suit, Munsell was celebrating his birthday with friends at his North End apartment, and walked to Market after consuming a number of alcoholic beverages. The group arrived at the bar around 10:20 p.m.; Munsell was kicked out about an hour later. Munsell reportedly wandered his way back toward the North End but was too disoriented to find his way, according to the lawsuit.
“It was foreseeable that ejecting Mr. Munsell from the bar to fend for himself in his intoxicated state and without a coat created a dangerous situation that placed Mr. Munsell at increased risk of injury and death,” the suit said, according to Hoover. The suit claims that the bouncer stood and watched as Munsell “stumbled off toward the street, weaving unsteadily,” and did not notify the victim’s friends of his departure or call the victim a cab. “Neither the bouncer who threw out Mr. Munsell nor any other Market employee made any effort to avoid or mitigate this unsafe situation,” the suit states, according to Hoover.
Munsell’s body was retrieved from the water near Long Wharf in April 2014, two months after he disappeared into the night.
According to the Boston Globe, the family is seeking an unspecified amount of damages from the owners and operators of the bar, JPC Venture Corp. and the Cronin Group. The family alleges that the defendants “did not have appropriate policies for removing drunk patrons and acted negligently by failing ‘to take reasonable steps to ensure his safety when removing him.’”
The Munsell family’s lawyer spoke openly about the suit, saying that the family hopes this lawsuit encourages other bars to take more care when ejecting drunken patrons.
While Market was not cited for any violation following the incident, a spokesperson for the establishment said that the company “takes its ‘responsibilities very seriously.’”
In conflicting reports, the city’s licensing board found Market with no violation for failing to provide aid to an intoxicated person. The board made the decision after hearing testimony from bar staff, who said Munsell was asked to leave because he offended a group of female patrons, and that they did not believe he was impaired (according to Hoover). He was reportedly asked by bar staff if he had a coat, to which he replied “no,” and subsequently left without incident.
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, dram shop liability can apply to any place that serves alcoholic beverages, and includes bars, nightclubs, restaurants, social clubs, liquor stores, and even individuals serving alcohol to their guests at a private party. Proprietors and social hosts are required by law to refrain from serving or selling alcohol to persons who are already visibly intoxicated. They may be subject to civil liability if they do serve or sell to a visibly intoxicated person and that person subsequently causes an accident or otherwise injures or kills another person or him/herself. The most common set of facts leading to dram shop liability is: a visibly drunk person is over-served, that person later engages in drunk driving, and injures him/herself or another individual. Dram shop liability may be imposed if a drunken person gets into a fight in or outside of the bar, acts recklessly and hurts another person, or causes harm to him/herself, another, or property in any way.
In addition to liquor liability laws, bars, restaurants and other public venues are responsible under premises liability laws. That means, that all establishments must ensure that their patrons are safe, whether it’s by providing adequate security or ensuring that the property is structurally safe.
If you or a loved one was injured as the result of an establishment’s negligence, you may have grounds for a personal injury case. It is advised in these situations to consult with a legal professional about your options. At the law offices of Altman & Altman, LLP, our team of attorneys has nearly 50 years of experience handling all types of personal injury cases. Call our office today to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation today.
Read the Boston Globe article here.