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Erin Perkins is the editor of Eater Carolinas, covering the food and restaurant scene across North and South Carolina.

According to a lawsuit filed in Charleston County, downtown sushi restaurant/bar Wasabi is being held liable for a drunk driving accident that led to the deaths of three West Ashley men. The suit states that on July 14, 2012, Trevor Holmes, William Morton Jr. and Tanz Scott were drinking at Wasabi and were over-served alcohol, which resulted in Holmes driving into a utility pole and tree on the way back from the bar. The crash resulted in the deaths of all three individuals. Post and Courier states the documents claim, "An autopsy indicated that Holmes’ blood alcohol level was more than the legal limit of .08 percent when the wreck occurred ..."

South Carolina (and most other states) have dram shop laws to establish liability of establishments serving/selling alcohol. Charleston lawyers Traywick & Traywick describe these laws on their website:

... but there is another bad actor in many cases: the drinking establishment that served the drunk driver too many drinks. South Carolina's law is highly favorable to injured people who have claims against bars and restaurants who over-serve people. Most personal injury law in South Carolina is what is called common law: judicially created law that has developed over the centuries, most notably the law of negligence. Claims against a bar, however, (known as "dram shop" claims) are founded on something stronger: statutes enacted by the State of South Carolina. Specifically, South Carolina Code Section 61-6-2220 prohibits any drinking establishment from selling alcoholic drinks to "persons in an intoxicated condition".

Eater spoke to other lawyers familiar with these cases, and it seems restaurants/bars could easily be liable for accidents/deaths if they serve individuals more than one drink an hour. Lawyers only have to prove a patron can easily become intoxicated at the establishment, and juries are likely to side against the bar.

It is not uncommon to find suits naming drunk drivers and the restaurants that served them for deaths of third party individuals. Most settle out of court, favoring the families of the individuals killed in the accidents. The Wasabi case is unique because it does not have a third party harmed by the intoxication of others, as the individuals killed were also the individuals partaking in the consumption of alcohol.

Wasabi Japanese Steak House

61 State St, Charleston, SC 29401 (843) 577-5222 Visit Website