10/13/2017Ohio Supreme Court Clears Strip Club In Drunk Stripper Accident
Ohio strip clubs are only liable for drunk-driving strippers who were knowingly served too much alcohol.
A stripper's place of business cannot be held liable for her after-hours drunk driving crash, the Ohio Supreme Court held in a ruling issued last month. A majority of high court justices cleared the Dayton strip club The Living Room from having to pay the $2.9 million judgment for the damages caused after stripper Mary Montgomery left the club drunk and high on July 4, 2010.
That evening, Montgomery lost control of her vehicle on Interstate 70 and rear ended a car in which Nicole Johnson was a passenger. Johnson's massive injuries racked up seven-figure medical bills, so she sued the club, arguing that it was liable because the management encouraged strippers to drink and placed no limits on how much they could consume on the job.
The case came down to the interpretation of a state law known as the Dram Shop Act, which holds bars and clubs liable for driving under the influence (DUI) accidents only if the bartender knowingly served too much to a patron or any amount to a minor. The high court majority pointed to the wording of the statute to find that it applies not just to patrons, but also to employees.
"Under the statute, then, neither [the strip club's owners] Thirty-Eight Thirty nor Ferraro could be held liable unless the club (or one of its employees) knowingly sold an intoxicating beverage to Montgomery when she was noticeably intoxicated," Justice R. Patrick DeWine wrote for the majority. "The trial court found that Montgomery was not noticeably intoxicated -- a determination that was not challenged on appeal. Thus, Thirty-Eight Thirty and Ferraro were not liable under the Dram Shop Act."
Justice William M. O'Neill disagreed with his colleagues, insisting that a jury, not a judge, should have decided whether the stripper was knowingly served too much alcohol.
"It is beyond comprehension that the majority does not address the fact that this entire sordid fact pattern was predictable, planned, intentionally created, and designed into a business plan," he wrote in a dissenting opinion. "Tragically, that business plan is now ratified by the Supreme Court of Ohio. Simply stated, the liquor-permit holder designed a business that profited when its patrons bought intoxicating beverages for the dancers stripping in the bar. Clearly, the dancers were going to have to get home after working, and no arrangements were made to ensure that they did not drive drunk."
The majority countered that it was up to the General Assembly to rewrite the law to cover such cases.
A copy of the ruling is available in a 60k PDF file at the source link below.