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Casino sued for serving man free drinks until he died

The following story is tragic, but it poses an interesting premises liability question regarding casinos.

While casinos essentially encourage their customers to stick around by offering free drinks to those who are gambling, what kind of restrictions should they be observing regarding the number of drinks that are handled out to an individual?

A lawsuit filed by the family of a deceased man who was staying at the IP Casino Resort in Mississippi poses this question. The 30-year-old man was "obviously intoxicated" according to his family's lawsuit when he stayed there in 2009. As the man sat in the casino, servers continually brought him drinks despite his family demanding they stop serving him.

The 30-year-old had been involved in multiple serious car accidents that left him on painkillers to manage his injuries. He had taken some in the weeks before his night out at the casino -- but after receiving an unknown (and presumably large) quantity of drinks, he was found dead in his hotel room.

The lawsuit requests $75 million from the casino for their negligence.

There are a couple of things about this lawsuit that stick out. The first is the compensatory request on behalf of the victim's family. That dollar figure is quite high, and while there surely is evidence to back up that value, states usually have laws that cap the amount a plaintiff can win in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. So even if they win the suit, the family likely will not receive the full $75 million.

The other thing to consider here is the liability of the casino. Bars and restaurants are banned from continually serving someone who is clearly intoxicated, which is the claim made here. Should the casino be held liable in this case? Or does their advertising of free drinks place more responsibility on the drinker?

Source: ABA Journal, "Lawsuit Claims Casino Let Man Drink Himself to Death," Mark Hansen, Aug. 2, 2012

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