By: Bell Law Firm
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A Call for Diligence: Avoiding Underage Alcohol Consumption
Bell Law Firm recently played an integral role in the confidential settlement against a Macon, Georgia Circle K following the death of 18-year old Murray Nixon.
In 2015, best friends Me-Me Wade and Murray Nixon were catching up during their holiday break from college by driving to look at Christmas lights. While driving around their hometown of Macon, Georgia, Me-Me’s car got stuck in a patch of grass and mud. Both girls took turns trying to push it out while the other was at the wheel. On the final attempt at freeing the car, Me-Me shifted into neutral and took her foot off the brake, causing the car to slide backward and run over Murray. Murray died on the spot.
Before going for their drive, the girls stopped at a local Circle K to purchase alcohol, even though they were underage. Circle K sold the alcohol without properly checking their IDs, even though the girls showed signs of intoxication and were driving. A few hours after their purchase from the store, Murray Nixon was dead.
The girls, both Murray and Me-Me, share responsibility for Murray’s death, and they both paid the price for it – Murray with her life, and Me-Me with the loss of her closest friend. However, the adult institutions that sold alcohol to the girls that night also bear responsibility, especially Circle K – as the last provider of alcohol before Murray Wade’s death.
An Avoidable Tragedy
At the center of this case are two young lives – one cut short, one permanently marred – both surrounded by mothers, fathers, and friends who loved them and grieve the loss. Beyond this particular case, losses like this occur routinely in Georgia and across the country. Thousands of people die each year because of drunk driving, and many more suffer non-fatal, but catastrophic injuries. On any given day, a Google News search on the phrase “drunk driver kills” will turn up a host of such stories.
Drunk driving of course endangers not only the drunk drivers, but the sober, law-abiding people who have the bad luck to be on the road when a drunk driver passes by. Routinely, sober, safe, careful drivers — or their kids in the back seat — get killed by drunk drivers.
What can be done to avoid future tragedies?
Bell Law Firm believes businesses bear the responsibility to be diligent, to avoid serving and selling alcohol to underage customers. However due to the increasing sophistication of fake ID’s, a quick glance at a driver’s license is no longer sufficient to ensure businesses are selling only to legal adults. Today, fake IDs often look much like official IDs. So businesses must take additional measures to ensure safety and legality.
- Educate employees: The first step a business should take in avoiding underage alcohol sales is educating employees about penalties for selling alcohol to minors. Anyone caught selling alcoholic beverages to a minor can be arrested and fined. Retail locations that sell to minors may also be fined and lose their license to sell alcohol altogether.
- Use state driver license databases: One standard trick for kids using fake ID’s is to use a different state’s driver’s license form, so the business’ employee will be less familiar with the license and less able to spot fakes. But business can use commercially available databases to instantly see what a driver’s license looks like in, say, West Virginia or New Mexico.
- Assess the situation holistically: Sellers must assess the situation holistically before serving any customer: Are the customers already intoxicated? Are customers driving? Businesses must educate employees about the signs of intoxication. As a matter of common sense, most people can spot someone who is dead drunk. But the signs of slight intoxication are subtler, and require both education and careful attention.
- Stay educated on local laws: It’s also important that businesses educate themselves on state laws surrounding alcohol consumption. For example, Georgia is one of 30 states that follow a Dram Shop Liability Law, stating that if an intoxicated person causes injury or death to another person, the establishment that provided the intoxicated person alcohol may be liable for damages.
While it’s increasingly difficult to spot underage drinking given detailed and scannable fake ID’s, it’s more important than ever for businesses to be aware. With preparation and diligence, we can avoid future accidents, deaths, and lives cut too short at the hand of under-age alcohol consumption.
If you have any questions or need possible representation against negligent business owners, contact us at www.belllawfirm.com.