There’s a story in the news about Tiger Woods and his involvement in the death of Nicholas Immesberger I find interesting. Woods owns a restaurant in Jupiter, Florida called The Woods Jupiter, and Immesberger worked there. He was drinking during his shift and afterwards and died when his car overturned later that night. His blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit when he died.
At issue is the Florida statute which holds a person liable for damages if they knowingly serve someone who is habitually addicted to alcohol. Immesberger attended Alcoholic Anonymous meetings in the past and had crashed his car previously while drunk. The people who worked with Immesberger knew of this and thus are potentially liable for the harm caused.
Woods owns the establishment and his girlfriend, who is the general manager of the bar and restaurant, drank with Immesberger a few nights before the fatal accident. Therefore, the lawsuit seeks to hold them accountable for the death even though neither of them actually served drinks to Immesberger the night of his death.
Many states have laws fairly similar to Florida in that it is illegal to serve someone who is a known alcoholic or who is obviously quite intoxicated. I personally agree doing so is not a particularly kind thing. If a person is stumbling drunk, she or he probably shouldn’t be served any more alcohol. If a person is an alcoholic, it would be somewhat of a service to refuse to provide drinks to her or him. That being said, I don’t think either action should be a matter for the state to adjudicate.
There are many problems with the law but the first and foremost from this Libertarian’s perspective is that it largely absolves the drunkard from responsibility. If a person chooses to drink to the point of intoxication and then hurts or kills someone else, or themselves, in an accident; that is completely the responsibility of said person. The statute seeks to put accountability on the server.
Another enormous issue is the law, by its very nature, is going to be applied unevenly and can easily be used by the state to persecute perceived enemies. It is quite certain people habitually addicted to alcohol are served in such establishments every minute of every day. Oftentimes it is quite well known the person has a problem. Basically, prosecutors get to choose when and if they are going to use the law.
The purpose of the law is an attempt to get people to stop serving alcoholics. A noble resolve but a clear attempt at social engineering. Good intentions are often the precursors of bad laws. Immesberger is dead because he chose to drink and drive.
If you think the lawsuit is egregious and without merit then you necessarily think the law is such. The letter of the law indicates at least the bartenders are liable if not Woods and the general manager.
I certainly think the employees of The Woods Jupiter should not have served him so much alcohol over the course of the day and evening. They should not have stood by while he drove off. That’s a moral failing, not a legal one.