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Bicyclist’s Death Leads to $1 Million Settlement Against Driver, Bar

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After nearly three years, the family of a bicyclist who was killed by a drunk driver has settled their lawsuit against the driver and the bar that served her. Under the terms of the agreement, the bar will pay $1 million, while the driver’s insurer will pay $25,000. The settlement was reached just as the civil trial was set to begin.

In December of 2006, Paul L’Ecuyer was peddling his bike in the bicycle lane when Melissa Arrington swerved into him. L’Ecuyer died from his injuries. A blood alcohol test taken two hours after the incident revealed that Arrington had been drinking. Witness reports state that Arrington had been driving erratically just prior to the accident. Arrington admits that she had a few drinks prior to the deadly collision, but insists that the crash was just an accident. She was convicted of negligent homicide and aggravated DUI and sentenced to ten and a half years in prison.

In Michigan, bars and restaurants are liable for damages and personal injuries caused by minors and visibly intoxicated persons who have been served alcohol at those establishments. The so-called "Dram Shop Act" helps ensure that liquor licensees do not carelessly or negligently serve people who have already had enough to drink.

The law provides that the last bar to serve the negligent driver is liable if it can be proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the driver was visibly intoxicated when he or she was served by the bar. Any previous bar that may have served the driver is liable only if it can be shown by clear and convincing evidence that the driver was visibly intoxicated when he or she was served. Evidence of visible intoxication has been held to include stumbling, slurring of words, and boisterous behavior.

Unfortunately, the law also presents some procedural hurdles to would-be plaintiffs. The statute of limitations for a lawsuit under the Dram Shop Act is only two years. In addition, written notice must be provided to all defendants within 120 days of the injured party hiring a lawyer.