Schneider & Onofry dram shop and liquor liability defense attorneys are thoroughly familiar with the statutes, regulations, potential causes of action, and the typical testifying expert witnesses.
We know the underlying toxicology science, including the intricacies of absorption and elimination rates, the speculation involved in trying to correlate signs of intoxication at various BAC levels, and the critical importance of tolerance in defending these cases.
With our knowledge of toxicology, we know that an effective defense can be maintained even without the need for separate toxicology or standard of care experts because “the toxicology is the toxicology,” and standard of care experts are largely nothing more than a conduit to parrot which they think is “the law.”
We have studied dram shop jury verdicts which reveal several consistent themes:
- defense verdicts are possible;
- the intoxicated driver is consistently found primarily at fault with bars being less culpable;
- the plaintiff may be apportioned fault where he or she was a passenger in the intoxicated driver’s vehicle; and
- when punitive damages are awarded, it is against the bar as opposed to the intoxicated driver, most likely because the driver is typically facing some criminal charge.
Because of that experience, we know the difference between a liability case and a defensible case and can usually provide an accurate evaluation which will hold up through the life of the case within 90-120 days of answering the complaint. That is a realistic goal for dram shop cases in Arizona mostly because of the role of several liability and apportionment of fault to non-parties (typically, the intoxicated driver or AIP), and the mandatory disclosure rules. An evaluation does not change unless it is warranted by some significant new development.
An aggressive motion practice is an integral part of an effective dram shop defense. Motions in limine
and Daubert motions are necessary where the opposing expert offers unsupported opinions regarding “obvious” intoxication. Motions are also crucial in limiting plaintiff’s attempts to introduce other bad acts that have occurred at the insured’s location and punitive damage claims.
In addition to our litigation advocacy, Schneider & Onofry maintains an active appellate practice in dram shop cases and works closely with national coordinating counsel for a large national insurer on their dram shop claims.