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Convicted drunk driver brings dram shop suit

A Santa Fe, New Mexico man is doing what most drunk driving accident victims consider unthinkable: he is suing the restaurants where he was drinking before he caused an accident. James Ruiz, the man who caused a fatal accident in March 2010, is claiming that servers at Applebee's restaurant and Blue Corn Café violated state law when they continued to serve him alcohol despite seeing that he was already drunk.

Under Texas "dram shop" laws, establishments that serve alcohol can be held liable for the damage that drunk drivers may cause after leaving their place of business. Essentially, restaurants and bars have a duty to stop serving patrons who are already drunk. These types of cases are commonly brought by people injured by a drunk driver.

After leaving the café with a friend, Ruiz caused a multiple vehicle crash that killed two teenagers. His blood alcohol level was found to be .22, which is more than twice the legal limit in New Mexico (.08). Moreover, Ruiz had already been convicted of three prior drunk driving offenses, and was standing trial for a fourth. The crash led to a conviction for vehicular homicide and a 40 year prison sentence for Ruiz.

Despite this, Ruiz is exercising his legal right to hold the restaurants accountable for their part. In his court documents, Ruiz claims that both establishments should have known that he was drunk and should not have let him get behind the wheel. In fact, he indicates that one Applebee's employee knew him as regular who was commonly drunk.

The report, provided by KRQE.com, did not indicate whether the parents of the teens killed in the accident had sued the restaurants as well.

Source: KRQE.com, Drunken driver sues restaurants, buddy, March 8, 2013

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