Polk family sues two Bay area bars

A Polk County family is using the courts to find two bars responsible for the loss of a loved one.

When you drink, drive and hurt someone - or even worse, kill them - who's responsible?

You, or the bar that served you the alcohol?

One man's family thinks two bars in Polk County are responsible for their loved one’s death.

You can smell fresh flowers left on the corner of Wells and Bailey in Mulberry and see the pictures of Paul Wooten Jr., who was killed in a crash a year ago.

John Stone was arrested for the crime. He was allegedly intoxicated.

Now Wooten's family has filed a lawsuit against the two bars Stone supposedly visited that night. 

“If I serve you, then I'm responsible for you. Even after you walk out that door,” says Dee Weber, an instructor with ABC Bartending Schools.

Weber says bars should step up and be responsible for their patrons.

“Yes, the bars need to train their people properly, send them to school. I hear so many times 'I don't need school' but yes you do,” says Weber. “It's a responsibility that falls on the bartender's shoulders because we're accountable for it and if we do the job properly we have no problems.”

Attorney Lee Pearlman explains that any companies selling alcohol are not liable for their customers except if they're underage or an alcoholic. It's called the Dram Shop Act.

“The liability occurs when you know there is an issue and you continue in some capacity to facilitate the problem, especially if someone has a drinking problem,” says Pearlman.

The Polk lawsuit claims Stone was a regular at the two bars and had a drinking problem. But Pearlman says in order to win the suit, the family needs evidence from witnesses to credit card records to surveillance video. 

The first bar in question, American Legion, tells 10News Stone wasn't there that night. 

The other bar, XYZ, closed down but our coverage partner, The Lakeland Ledger, reports the owner recently received the lawsuit and has passed it on to his attorney.

(© 2016 WTSP)


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