MARYLAND

Md. court: Bars not liable for patrons' accidents

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GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WJLA) - Maryland's highest court says bars can't be held responsible for accidents their patrons cause after they leave.

The Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in the case of a 2008 drunken driving crash in Montgomery County that killed a 10-year-old girl.

When Rev. William Warr Jr. heard the state's highest court had ruled against him he immediately thought of his deceased granddaughter, Jazimen. 

“I looked at her picture last night,” Warr says. “I said ‘Sorry Jazimen, we tried. We really tried.’”

Warr and his wife, Angela, had sued the Dogfish Head Alehouse in Gaithersburg, the bar that had served Michael Eaton 17 beers and several shots on the night of the crash. Forty-five minutes after he was kicked out, Eaton struck the Warr's vehicle from behind while speeding on Interstate 270. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to prison. 

The Warr's believe bars are responsible for the actions of their over-served and impaired customers. 

“You need to say ‘Enough is enough,’” says Angela Warr. “At least call and say ‘Let me take your keys or call a cab for you.'"

The case made it all the way to the Court of Appeals, but the Warr's lost. The judges in the 4-3 opinion suggested the General Assembly was the appropriate place to change the law, as opposed to the court.

People ABC7 spoke with Friday are as split as the court. 

“It’s wreckless, but I agree with the state,” says Anthony Boushay. “I don’t think they should be held liable for that.”

“They should say ‘OK, give me your keys just in case’ and have some kind of breathalyzer,” says Danielle Jackson.

But the Warr’s and their lawyer aren’t giving up. They say they’ll next ask the legislature to add Maryland to the list of states which assign at least some responsibility to those who serve alcohol.

“It’s got to change,” says Adam Betterman. “Maryland is in a minority of states. About 43 states recognize this kind of liability. Why? Because it works.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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