While numerous laws and criminal sanctions have been enacted to deter those who drive while intoxicated, deterrence does not compensate those who suffer bodily harm or property damage because of a drunk driver. Drunk driving is not seasonal; it remains a major problem 365 days a year.
The law has traditionally looked for accountability from those who drink and drive. More recently, the courts have begun to recognize the chain of events leading to an injury caused by an intoxicated driver, and they may hold other parties accountable as well, such as the server or seller of the alcohol to someone who is “apparently” intoxicated.
Several years ago, the Washington State Legislature amended the law dealing with the sale of liquor to include a provision that no person shall sell liquor to any person apparently under the influence of liquor as noted in the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act.1 That law was interpreted by the courts in the initial cases to mean “obviously” intoxicated and not just “apparently”.
Obviously intoxicated v. apparently intoxicated is very significant. The “obviously intoxicated” evidence threshold is much higher and more difficult to prove. This places a greater burden on those injured by the acts of intoxicated individuals to hold accountable the business that over-served alcohol.