The widow of a man killed two years ago in a mid-day motor vehicle accident near Chaumont is suing a trio of Sackets Harbor restaurants for allegedly overserving an already intoxicated person. The family of victim Robert Burkard has been relentless in seeking punishment for his death at the hands of Leo Coleman Jr, the son of a prominent Watertown restaurant and bar owner.
Mr. Coleman has been sentenced, but the Burkard family thought the sentence too light. The suit against three restaurants alleges all three failed to train employees or exercise control over alleged service to Mr. Coleman.
Coleman was determined to have a .17 BAC at the time of the crash.
Its a nightmare scenario for the licensees as even with the most well trained staff, they now face time on the civil justice treadmill, hiring lawyers, answering complaints and wondering if they will go out of business trying to keep up with the expenses of a lawsuit brought by a plaintiff with the means and motivation to plow ahead.
Licensees are required by law and by common sense (a higher calling at times) to refuse service to clearly intoxicated persons and a tragedy can result in what's called a Dram Shop suit. It is a difficult case to make as timelines and precise descriptions of what happened are not clearly established. Even though, defense against a suit can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Often its a 'thereby for the grace of God' that happens, like the case last Friday of the man who left a concert in Watertown and stole a city pickup truck before Troopers nabbed him on Route 37 and he blew a .21 BAC.
No accident, no plaintiff, no foul.....Buts its a fear everyone who serves the devil's brew has.
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