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Tiger Woods Wrongful Death Lawsuit Brings Up Questions of Bar Liability


Golf legend Tiger Woods owns a restaurant in Jupiter that is now being sued in a wrongful death action in which a former employee whose family claims he was an alcoholic drank for three hours after his shift and attempted to drive home. Florida has very clear “dram shop” laws that insulate proprietors of bars and restaurants from liability in the event that one of their customers injures themselves or another customer. However, the law becomes less clear when it’s an employee of the restaurant who is doing the drinking.

In this case, the family of Nicholas Immesberger is claiming that the other employees knew that he suffered from alcoholism and served him anyway. This distinction could open up Woods and his Jupiter business to liability.

Understanding Florida’s Dram Shop Laws

Florida law creates only two potential cases against dram shop owners and social hosts. Dram shops are responsible when they knowingly serve alcohol to someone under the age of 21 or to someone who they know has a drinking problem. Neither of these cases is easy to prove. It requires that the personal injury attorney establish what the bartender or social host did or did not know.

In the case of a “drinking problem” it’s even more difficult to prove since bartenders and social hosts are not addiction counselors nor are they expected to be able to differentiate between someone who is a heavy social drinker and someone who is suffering from severe alcoholism.

Attorneys for Immesberger, however, believe that they can prove that employees at Woods’ bar knew that Immesberger had a “drinking problem”, as opposed to being simply an enthusiastic drinker. Certain facts may support this case.

Firstly, when Immesberger was found dead after crashing his vehicle in a single-car accident, he had a BAC of .256 which is more than three times the legal limit. But once again, the question becomes: Were the employees aware of Immesberger’s history of alcoholism?

Alcoholism is generally defined as a severe addiction. It also generally requires medical intervention to break the cycle of that addiction. In general, bartenders and employees can have difficulty distinguishing between having a good time after work and a condition that requires a medical diagnosis. The plaintiff’s attorney must establish that the employees or employers knew that Immesberger had a history of doing potentially lethal or dangerous things while under the influence of alcohol. One way to establish that is by looking at his credit card history and his work schedule.

The plaintiffs will attempt to establish that the defendants served Immesberger multiple drinks on multiple occasions and then allowed him to drive home knowing that he posed a risk to other drivers on the road. A jury will also be asked to determine the plaintiff’s own liability or blame for the crash. If it can be established that the plaintiff’s share of the blame exceeds 50%, then the plaintiff would not be entitled to recovery under Florida statute.

Talk to a Vero Beach Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you’ve been injured by a negligent party, the Vero Beach personal injury attorneys at Vocelle & Berg, LLP can help you recover damages. Contact us today for a free consultation.