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Can we sue the insurance of the bar who over served my brother which led to his death in a car accident

Ottawa Lake, MI |

My brother was at a local bar, where he consumed alchohol to the point of visual intoxication. he had given his keys to the bartender at one point in the night, she later returned them to him. The bar was closing the next day for good so it was under no control by the 3 young girls working. He at one point was behind the bar making shots for himself and others. The owner marked all drinks to $1 to "get rid of them"

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Attorney answers 4


The answer is yes, but sadly it may prove difficult -- and I am very sorry to read about your loss and offer you my condolences.
In answer to your question, the cause of action is known as a Dramshop (or Michigan Liquor Control) case. However, the law is very difficult for proving liability under Michigan's dramshop laws, it was recently made harder by our supreme court, and successful dramshop cases are far harder here than in most states. The viability of a dramshop action will depend on the facts. I believe I still have my seminar materials from a presentation I did on this for the Michigan Association for Justice or ICLE a few years ago on my website, in the seminars area if you would like more information:

Kenneth Howard Levinson

Kenneth Howard Levinson


Great answer from one of the best lawyers in the country.


I will defer to the excellent answer previously posted by the Michigan attorney. Dram shop cases are difficult to bring. The success of a case brought by your brother's estate may hinge on the amount of evidence and eyewitness testimony that can be unearthed. Was he there with friends? We any of them sober? Does the bar have a television surveillance system? Etc. Consult with an experienced Michigan personal injury attorney to evaluate your case.

Disclaimer: This does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship has been formed through this answer.


I am terribly sorry for your loss. My condolences to you and your family.

It sounds as though you may have a cause of action under the dram shop laws, but those laws differ from state to state. In NY, it is difficult to prove a dram shop case and it is very fact dependent. The ideal set of facts would be that the bartender knew your brother was driving, saw that he was inebriated to a point of visible intoxication (ie... slurring words, stumbling, etc.) but still kept serving him and in fact pushing $1 drinks on him. Even with these facts, it would be difficult to prove such a case and it seems to be even more difficult in your state as per Mr. Gurstein.

I suggest you contact an attorney immediately to discuss these matters further. Most likely before any action was taken, an administrator for your brother's estate would need to be set up, which is another step altogether, but one that can likely be handled by any attorney who takes your case.

Good luck!

The aforementioned opinion does not constitute legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. See an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction for competent legal advice. No attorney-client relationship has been formed through the within legal question and answer session.


It is a good thing you live in Michigan and I hope the events occurred in Michigan. The Ohio Supreme Court has held that your brother, if he had lived, or his estate cannot recover against the bar. Now any third party injured by your brother's driving would have a cause of action against the bar's owner and staff.

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