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California bars and restaurants cannot be held personally liable for serving alcohol to an intoxicated adult customer who later injures someone in a motor vehicle accident. However, the bar or restaurant can be liable if the person is a minor and was “obviously intoxicated” when served alcohol by the establishment as codified in California Business and Professions Code section 25602.1.
The phrase “obviously intoxicated” means a minor who has known outward manifestations of liquor intoxication. The supplier of alcohol must use his or her powers of observation to such extent as to see that which is easily seen and to hear at that which is easily heard. The outward manifestations of liquor intoxication can be obvious and can include:
In order to prosecute a case like this, it is important to obtain the minor’s preliminary alcohol screening or blood alcohol level results. It may also be necessary to retain an expert toxicologist who can use this information to testify regarding the minor’s outward manifestations of intoxication. A bartending expert may also be needed to testify as to any previous or existing disciplinary actions, violations or complaints involving the bar or restaurant. In addition, a thorough investigation should be conducted to obtain any and all percipient witness testimony that can support the evidence of an obviously intoxicated minor. These are but a few of the issues involved in what are usually very difficult cases to prosecute.
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