Publicans not liable for serving man before fatal crash
TWO publicans who served drink to a man later involved in a fatal crash are not liable for damages over the collision, a court ruled.
John Connolly (79) was served between five and six pints of beer before he drove on the wrong side of the road hitting another vehicle on the afternoon of March 31, 2005.
Mr Connolly of Kinlough, Leitrim, died after the collision as did a passenger in the other car, Anne McSorley of Antrim Road, Belfast.
His estate claimed it should be entitled to an indeminty or contribution from Seamus and Concepta Kelly, proprietors of the Diamond Bar in Tullaghan, Leitrim. This would contribute to a €275,000 damages settlement against the estate by the driver of the other vehicle.
Yesterday, Mr Justice Kevin Feeney dismissed the claim in the High Court -- saying the publicans did not owe a duty of care to Mr Connolly.
It was not established that Mr Connolly was drunk within the meaning of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003, and there was no legal basis for stopping him from driving, the judge said.
Such an argument was impractical and would place an impossible burden on publicans, who would have to question all of their customers on a recurring basis, the judge said.
The duty of care that the Connolly estate sought to impose on the Kellys included an obligation on publicans to restrain, assault or even falsely imprison a person they believed to be unfit to drive, he said.
Mr Connolly was seen driving in an erratic manner and post-mortem results showed he was about three times over the drink-driving limit.
The driver of the other car, Ms McSorley's mother, Mary Flanagan, Oakland Road, Omagh, was seriously injured in the collision.
She secured a €275,000 settlement against the estate of Mr Connolly, alleging negligence and breach of duty of care.
Mr Connolly's estate then sued the Kellys, seeking an indemnity or contribution towards that settlement.
The Kellys denied any liability and contended Mr Connolly was totally to blame for the accident.
The judge ruled yesterday there was no precedent or court judgment in Ireland concerning the duty of care of a publican in a case such as this.
He took into account that, prior to the accident, Mr Connolly, who was a regular at the Diamond, was not so intoxicated that he could not look after his own safety or take care of himself.
He also accepted the Kellys' evidence that they never had to intervene to ask Mr Connolly not to drive home, as they had no reason to make such a request.
He accepted Mr Connolly was served between five and six pints of Guinness, along with food, between 11.30am and 3.15pm on the day of the accident. He then left the pub, and it was accepted that neither of the Kellys were in the bar when he left.
The crash happened at 4pm, five minutes' drive from the Diamond Bar, and around 40 minutes after he had left the bar.
The judge said that given the level of alcohol in Mr Connolly's blood at the time of his death, it was probable that he had drank more alcohol than just the drinks he had consumed at the pub.