A sports bar in Rockville, Maryland is slated to surrender its license and permanently shutter its doors after it allegedly over-served a customer who then got in a vehicle and crashed it, killing an on-duty police officer from Montgomery County.
Twenty-four-year-old Officer Noah Leotta had volunteered that night to work for a special holiday drunk driving patrol. He suffered severe injuries when the driver, Luis Gustavo Reluzco, side-swiped the cruiser on December 3, 2016 as he was in the middle of conducting a traffic stop. Leotta died a week later of his injuries. Reluzco, 47, has admitted he was downing beers and bourbon for approximately three hours before the crash. He later pleaded guilty to a single charge of vehicular manslaughter, and is awaiting sentencing. He could receive up to three years.
Now, according to NBC-4 Washington, business administrators for the establishment that served Reluzco alcohol that night, a Hooters franchise, have agreed to close their doors and forfeit their liquor license. As it stood, the Department of Liquor Control’s Board of License Commissioners had scheduled a hearing for this month to weigh evidence in consideration of revoking the license. The restaurant simply beat the board to the punch, as the case against it was strong.
Authorities say Reluzco drank enough booze at the restaurant that night to render his blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 after the crash. At the scene, the impaired driver also reportedly conceded to consuming Xanax and marijuana. He was so intoxicated he was unable to take a breathalyzer test. Officers had to obtain a blood sample to have an accurate idea of what defendant had consumed.
The fatal crash lit a fire under legislators in Maryland, who recently passed a measure called, “Noah’s Law,” which now requires all convicted drunk drivers to use interlock ignition devices in their vehicles for a set period of time. These devices require drivers to submit a breath sample before the vehicle will even start. Previously (as is currently the case in Massachusetts), the devices were only required of drivers who had multiple DUI convictions.
Noah’s Law made Maryland the 26th state to impose an all-offender DUI ignition interlock law. Our Boston DUI injury lawyers are still waiting on Massachusetts to follow suite.
In the meantime, action like the one taken by this Rockville Hooters is somewhat unusual in that these bars don’t typically close. The father of the fallen officer said that while the closing doesn’t bring back his son, it does send a message that restaurants are responsible for the impact they have in the community.
Although there is no mention of it at this point in this particular case, restaurants and bars may also be liable to the families of those injured or killed by intoxicated patrons via dram shop laws. These statutes vary from state-to-state, with some offering more victim protections than others.
In Massachusetts, M.G.L. ch. 138, section 69 holds that no alcoholic beverages should be sold or distributed to an intoxicated person. Violation of this statute can be grounds for a dram shop lawsuit. Dram shop laws are not intended to reduce personal responsibility for injuries caused by drunk drivers. However, they do provide another avenue of compensation for victims.
If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston drunk driving accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.
Hooters that served Ofc. Leotta’s killer to permanently close, July 25, 2016, By Malory Hughes, WUSA