On August 18, 2011, the Maine Supreme Court decided a personal injury case that revolved around the legal obligations of a business trip organizer and chartered bus company for a drinking and driving accident caused by a passenger.  Davis v. Dionne, et al., 2011 ME 90 [http://www.courts.state.me.us/court_info/opinions/2011%20documents/11me90da.pdf].  The facts were that Scott Dionne, an employee of Brockway-Smith Co., organized a fishing charter and dinner trip to Bar Harbor for the benefit of its customers, Crescent Lumber and its millwork contractors.  Crescent chartered a bus with John T. Cyr & Sons, Inc.  The trip began and ended at Crescent Lumber’s parking lot.  In advance of the trip, Dionne bought 4 or 5 cases of beer and a gallon of rum for the employees to drink during the trip.  One of the people on the trip got drunk, drove after he was dropped off, and injured an innocent person, Paul Davis, in a drinking and driving car accident.

As to the bus driver and his employer, Cyr, the Court found no legal duty on their part to protect the public from drunk passengers after they got off the bus.  The Court held that the bus company’s legal obligations ended once they discharged the passenger.  Consequently, that claim was thrown out.

Maine has a special statute which controls when a server of alcohol may be sued for a drinking and driving accident.  Lawyers and judges generally call these dram shop statutes.  Maine’s dram shop statute has a short statute of limitations (2 years), and other special requirements and limitations.  The claimant, Mr. Davis, did not sue within the two years and, consequently, had that claim thrown out.  The Supreme Court of Maine ruled that under these facts, the dram shop statute was the only claim he had and, since he had blown the statute of limitations, he had no claims left.  The bottom line for Mr. Davis was that the only claim that he was able to make was against the drunk driver himself.

Written by Stephen B. Wade