Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Woman Crushed by Drunk Fan at Mets Game

"People shouldn't have to deal with drunks flying through the air at a ballgame."

The above quote is from the attorney of a woman who sued the New York Mets last year after being crushed by an intoxicated fan of substantial weight. With baseball season again in full swing (pardon the pun), I was reminded of the incident. I never saw a resolution to the case, but it does provide some interesting points to discuss.

Ellen Massey attended Opening Day and, late in the game, a drunk 300-pound man fell on her from several rows above. The incident broke one of Ms. Massey’s vertebrae and required the insertion of two rods in her back. Massey filed suit against both the New York Mets and Aramark (the company that runs concessions at the stadium).

There are laws in place in every state known as Dram Shop Laws, and the burden of proof and recourse available varies from state to state. According to the Alcohol Beverage Control Law Section 65(2) in New York, it is “unlawful for anyone to sell, deliver or give away alcoholic beverages to any ‘visibly intoxicated’ person.” But, the question becomes … what attributes define visible intoxication? The courts have been given a lot of leeway in making this decision, and most often the proof comes through the submission of circumstantial evidence (eyewitness affidavits). So, a drunk really is in the eye of the beholder.

Aramark has found itself in this situation before. In 2005, the concessions company was on the losing end of a $135 million lawsuit for serving an intoxicated fan at a Giants game. The man paralyzed a two-year-old girl in a car accident after the game. The decision was later thrown out on appeal, with a final resolution still pending.

In the words of countless public service announcements, let’s all make responsible decisions when alcohol is involved. The consequences can be catastrophic and last for a lifetime. If you have been the victim of someone’s irresponsible drinking, please contact Bertolino LLP and we can discuss your case.

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