Phoenix-Yuma Dram Shop and Liquor Liability Defense Attorneys

Industry-Specific Knowledge and Experience in Arizona Dram Shop Liability Defense

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.

Recent Dram Shop and Liquor Liability Defense Cases

  • Representation of a bar in a dram shop/wrongful death matter involving overserving, which resulted in a single vehicle accident that caused the death of one person and catastrophic injuries to another.
  • Defense of a bar sued for dram shop/wrongful death of someone who was run over in the parking lot and killed.
  • Summary judgment in favor of bar where the allegedly intoxicated driver had been successfully taken home but who later left and caused a fatal collision.
  • Defense of a bar sued for the death of an individual who stepped out in front of a car being driven by a patron of the bar.
  • Defense of a Phoenix bar accused of overserving an underage patron who later rolled her vehicle, was ejected during the impact, and sustained significant injuries to her back and ankles.
  • Defense of a bar sued for the wrongful deaths of three individuals who were struck by a drunk driver.
  • Defense of a bar sued on a dram shop matter involving a vehicle running a red light hitting a motorcycle, which caused catastrophic injury.
  • Defense of a bar sued in a dram shop matter sued by a motorcyclist who suffered catastrophic injuries after being struck by a drunk driver on a freeway.
  • Representation of a Tucson bar in a wrongful death action where a bar patron (driving under the influence) struck and killed a woman who was standing in a roadway median.
  • Representation of a Phoenix bar sued for the wrongful death of an elderly woman who was struck and killed by a bar patron while crossing the street.
  • Defense of a Phoenix bar whose patron ran a red light and struck a vehicle carrying a family of three. The mother died at the scene, the father was comatose, and infant child suffered a broken leg.
  • Defense of a Tucson bar against allegations of overserving a minor, where after leaving the bar, patrons gathered at a nearby restaurant and became involved in an altercation that resulted in the deaths of two people.
  • Defense of a Phoenix bar in a wrongful death action brought by the surviving children of the occupants of a vehicle that was struck by a bar patron’s truck while he drove drunk. Two women died at the scene, and the sole passenger remains in a vegetative state.
  • Defense of a Tucson bar sued by the surviving mother of a bar patron who was shot and killed by another person while leaving the property.

Published Opinions

  • Henning v. Montecini Hospitality, Inc., 217 Ariz. 242, 173 P.3d 430 (App. 2007): Summary judgment in dram shop action affirmed in favor of seller of a bar where purchase was not completely finalized; seller owed no duty to person injured by intoxicated patron because seller maintained no control over operation of the premises
  • Battistello v. The Tilted Kilt of Ariz., LLC, 1 CA-CV 10-0739 (12/22/2011), 2011 WL 6747422: Jury verdict in favor of bar upheld in dram shop matter
  • Dupray v. JAI Dining Services, No. 1 CA-CV 17-0599 (11/15/2018): Overturned a $5.4 million verdict against a licensed liquor establishment concerning alleged over-service of alcohol (see news item)

Insurance Defense Peer Recognition

Schneider & Onofry has the collective experience of over 300 jury trials, 500 arbitrations, and literally thousands of general liability cases. Individual honors for Jon Schneider, Chuck Onofry and their senior colleagues include:

  • Jon Schneider was recognized by The Best Lawyers in America® as the 2017 “Lawyer of the Year” for Phoenix in Insurance Litigation
  • Jon Schneider, Chuck Onofry, Joe Swan and Tim O’Connor are members of the American Board of Trial Advocates
  • Chuck Onofry and Joe Swan are Certified Specialists in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death (Arizona Board of Legal Specialization)
  • Jon Schneider, Chuck Onofry and Joe Swan are Best Lawyers in America honorees
  • Jon Schneider and Chuck Onofry are Super Lawyers honorees
  • Our attorneys have published numerous insurance- and trial-related articles and frequently lecture on a variety of trial tactic topics

Efficiency in Litigation

Schneider & Onofry attorneys are committed to efficiently evaluate and litigate cases. This is the result of handling literally thousands of general liability cases and understanding the importance of a cost/benefit approach to discovery.

The Importance of Early Evaluations and Setting Reserves. We know the importance of evaluations and the reserve process and believe that, in the majority of cases where there has been a preliminary investigation, we can provide an accurate evaluation that will hold up through the life of the case within 90-120 days of answering the complaint.

Billing/Budgets. We are accustomed to and understand the importance of timely reporting, working within budgets, and adhering to billing guidelines. We have adopted to those insurers which have replaced traditional paper invoicing with a paperless system such as is used with Legal Exchange, Counselink, Legal Solutions, Extranet, Allegient, and many others.

Technology. We use the latest technology in the office and courtroom, which has dramatically enhanced the exchange of information and reduced the cost of litigation to our clients.

Competitive Advantages in Yuma Insurance Litigation

Schneider & Onofry is committed to serving carriers with claims in Yuma County. Since 2009, we have been the only insurance defense firm with an established office and active day-to-day practice in Yuma. We welcome the opportunity to meet and discuss how we might help you succeed in Yuma County’s unique legal, business and cultural environment.

Why You Want Defense Counsel With Yuma Experience

Yuma is a border town with unique characteristics. It has very much a small-town feel, although the county has doubled in size within the last 20 years and now has an effective population of over 200,000. The community’s economy is anchored by highly sophisticated agricultural and distribution industries and the presence of a U.S. Marine Corps air station. The area’s economic sectors and ethnic and socioeconomic diversity are reflected in each jury panel assembled in superior court.

Benefits of Using Schneider & Onofry in Yuma

Most defense firms leverage their work by having associates handle the day-to-day activities, with the partner mostly supervising. That is not the case with Schneider & Onofry. In Yuma, your claim will be handled directly by either Jon Schneider or Chuck Onofry, both of whom have substantial experience. They continue to handle claims from start to finish, meaning they are steeped in all aspects of investigation, discovery, motion practice, trials, post-trial motions, and any appeal.

Other unique benefits of using Schneider & Onofry in Yuma include:

  • the only established defense firm in Yuma
  • fully staffed office with videoconference capability
  • no travel time expense (Phoenix-Yuma round trip is six hours)
  • bilingual attorneys
  • familiarity with Yuma attorneys
  • trial experience before all Yuma County judges
  • familiar with IME doctors in Yuma County
  • jury selection is enhanced by our involvement in and familiarity with the Yuma community and its unique characteristics
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