Wrongful Death Lawsuit Won Against Assailants, Fails Against Bars

Miami wrongful death attorneys have been watching a recent Florida wrongful death case that involved four different defendants: two were individuals who attacked and killed a man they had just met, and the other two were drinking establishments that served alcohol to the three men.

A man named Ryan Butler went to Lahey’s Lounge in January 2008, and ended up bludgeoned to death that night by two men he met at the bar.

The three men drank at Lahey’s for several hours, then bought more alcohol at a liquor store. They were going to go to Meredosia to listen to a band rehearse.

The two acquaintances, Michael Buss and Christopher Walker, began hitting Butler after the three men argued. Walker killed Butler by hitting him three times with a cinder block.

Walker is serving 45 years. Buss 20 years.

In the civil wrongful death case, the jury awarded Butler’s family $50,000 for Butler’s conscious pain and suffering, $5000 for funeral expenses, and $100,000 for the family’s loss of Butler’s society.

The family hopes to collect from Buss when he is released from prison. There is less hope that any money can be recovered from Walker.

The other side of the wrongful death case was the “dram shop” claim, which is a lawsuit against a bar or any drinking establishment that serves alcohol to an already intoxicated person who then causes harm (in this case, death).

Under the Dram Shop Act in this case, though, the bar and liquor store are not held liable if the victim contributed to the intoxication of the people who caused the death. Butler was involved in Walker and Buss’s intoxication, so the claims against the liquor establishments failed.

  • Source: Jacksonville Journal-Courier “Liqor establishments not liable in 2008 death” May 27, 2010