Transcript - Dramashop Litigation - CourtTV - September 07, 2000
Pros and Cons
"Serving up a Lawsuit"
September 7, 2000
57:30 - 104:00
Nancy Grace: Millions of high school and college kids make sneaking into bars to buy beer a right of passage, but if you are anywhere near the Mitchell Dam Bar in Iowa, and you want to buy beer, you better think twice and find a better way to prove you are a grown up because you may wind up in court! That's right, the bar owners recently filed a lawsuit against an underage drinker. He was caught in the bar with a beer and as Court T.V. Sheila Steinbach reports, shows how the 20 year old college student is getting a crash course on liquor laws.
Bar Owner: If you are under 21 and you want to purchase alcohol, you are not welcome here, you go somewhere else.
Sheila Steinbach: The warning on the exterior is clear of the Mitchell Dam Bar, but last July a sheriff's deputy caught a 20 year old college student with a beer in his possession. He claims a bar worker sold the drink to him. After the bar received a citation, one of its owners, Stan Walk, said he had to take action.
Stan Walk: We were able to convince the county attorney that we felt there were too many discrepancies and he agreed and dropped the charges.
Sheila Steinbach: So now Walk and his partners are suing the student for $2500. He says he is doing it to punish the man for jeopardizing his business and liquor license.
Stan Walk: Individuals have no idea what kind of jeopardy they are placing us in.
Sheila Steinbach: Walk says the minor pleaded guilty to underage possession and falsely identifying himself to police. Charges the bartender accused insists are nothing more than a slap on the wrist. The bartender had faced a $1500 fine. As for the deputy that cited him, neither he nor Walk harbors any hard feelings.
Stan Walk: They got a job to do and he was being fair about it.
Nancy Grace: Walk says he is going to appeal to one of the big guns in beer sales, Anheiser Busch, he hopes the company will join him in his lawsuit to further fight against underage drinking. The underage drinker in question declined to answer questions live. He and his attorney also plan to challenge the lawsuit. Tonight with us live in Minneapolis, Stan Walk, also, in Florida, an underage drinker, we will just call him Graham, and in Chicago personal injury attorney Ken Moll. To all of you, welcome to Pros and Cons gentlemen. Stan, you have been a bar owner I think over 20 years now and now you are suing a college sophomore, why?
Stan Walk: I think we have to make a statement and the statement has to be that we do not want underage drinkers. The penalties for underage drinkers are minor under state law and the state of Iowa but it is very severe if they are caught in on of our establishments for us, the owners.
Nancy Grace: Well, aren't you guys supposed to card people when they come in the front door? I always get carded. Everybody I know gets carded if they are 18 or 80.
Stan Walk: In a major establishment, yes, they normally have bouncers at the front door but we are a rural establishment and we don't have anyone sitting at the front door.
Nancy Grace: Well, I don't think you can get more rural than Macon, Georgia and let me tell you, they card you. Kenneth Moll, was that you jumping in?
Ken Moll: That's correct, Mr. Walk, the law in Iowa is clear, any tavern owner who knowingly serves alcohol to a minor or had reasonable cause to believe that the patron is a minor is liable, is guilty. So you have clearly admitted that you are not carding everyone that comes in your door.
Stan Walk: We don't card everybody because we do allow minors in our place, but what happened in this instance, which I believe happened, is one of his friends slipped him the beer, we did not sell him the beer.
Graham: May I say something? How come people who drink in your bar don't have to wear wristbands?
Nancy Grace: Graham, Please. I respect the suggestion but if kids are sneaking into bars don't you think they are going to swap off wristbands in different colors. They would be for sale for 25 cents outside the bar.
Graham: They should have a professional staff there that knows what they are doing and can catch that.
Ken Moll: Let me make a point. Bar owners are responsible for serving minors if they don't check or have reasonable cause to believe. I know, Mr. Walk, that there is a book that every tavern owner uses. I mean not even checking, we don't even get to the book of how we check for forgery but now checking a minor drinking in your establishment makes you guilty. I think for you, of all people, filing a lawsuit against the minor for not even having accepted a fine and not even being charged with a fine, I think is ridiculous.
Nancy Grace: Well, hold on guys. I want to go back to Graham. You have spoken up and I want to put the hard question to you. You sneak into bars, you're underage, aren't you worried about the liability of the bar owner? You could put him out of business buddy!
Graham: That's his problem.
Nancy Grace: Well, now you go a caring individual. I am starting to get the flavor of your lawsuit.
Graham: Listen, if a bar owner owns a bar, an establishment like that, he should know how to run it and keep underage drinkers out of it. I know many of bars where me, myself, can't get into it because it is strict and the bar owners knows what he is doing and knows how to keep underage drinkers out of there. Apparently this gentleman from Iowa doesn't know exactly how to do it, so someone managed to get a drink, and now he is in trouble, and he is trying to change the blame.
Nancy Grace: Stan, are you going to take that lying down?
Stan Walk: Not really, no. Iowa, we are basically a community center. We have people from 5 to 85 year's old coming into our place and we don't think it is up to us to baby-sit.
Nancy Grace: Stan, last question. How far do you plan to take it, this must be costing you a bundle?
Stan Walk: We are going to take it to small claims court, if we win, we win. I think we should win.
Nancy Grace: You are representing yourself, right?
Stan Walk: Yes, I am.
Nancy Grace: Well, no big fat lawyers fees for you. Stan Walk, Ken Moll, and Graham, thank you.