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Bar Criminally Liable for Patron's DUI Crash

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 21, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you think your business can't be held liable for the criminal acts of employees, think again.

A Philadelphia bar has pled guilty to criminal charges after its employees served an inebriated patron who was then escorted to her car. The patron ended up crashing her vehicle, killing herself and two others.

The bar is now on the hook for $12,500 in fines and restitution.

Head's Up, Inc. owns the Lamp Post Inn in Middletown, where the driver was drinking the night of the crash. The bartender served her despite obvious inebriation, and when she became rowdy, a bouncer took her to her car instead of calling a cab, reports Fox 43.

Head's Up was charged with reckless endangerment for failing to properly train employees, as well as serving visibly intoxicated persons, notes the station. The company's president and director, Elizabeth Heddy, entered a guilty plea on all charges.

In terms of civil liability, ordinarily businesses are not liable for the criminal acts of its employees. This, however, is not true when those criminal acts occur within the scope of employment or at a supervisor's instruction.

Criminally, a business may also be held liable if its conduct led to, or informed, an employee's criminal actions. In the case of Head's Up, the company's failure to properly train bartenders and bouncers directly led to a patron being improperly served and then pushed into her car while drunk.

These events underscore the importance of proper employee training--about the law and the safety of customers and other employees. The only way to protect yourself is to make sure your employees know what they're doing.

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