Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Montana Supreme Court Rides to the Rescue of the Stumble Inn

The reports on the Montana Supreme Court decision upholding a state law requirement that the poor saloon-keeps of that state be given 180 day notice of a drunk drivng crash, that could result in a dram shop action against the bar.  Here's an excerpt from the Missoulian story:

 "A sharply divided Montana Supreme Court has upheld a state law that requires someone planning to sue a bar over liability in a drunken driving crash to notify the bar within 180 days of the crash. The Supreme Court issued the 4-3 ruling on Dec. 23 in a lawsuit filed by Cary and Terra Rohlfs over a June 2006 drunken driving crash that seriously injured Cary Rohlfs. The driver, Joseph Warren, had been drinking for much of the day at the Stumble Inn in Victor. The Rohlfs sued the bar just over a year after the crash, alleging it was liable for continuing to serve alcohol to an obviously inebriated customer. A District Court dismissed the case because the bar did not receive proper notice. The Rohlfs argued the 180-day limitation, enacted by the Legislature in 2003, was prohibited by special legislation that protected bar owners and added a burden to victims of drunken driving crashes.

The majority, in an opinion written by outgoing Justice John Warner, rejected those arguments, saying it was not up to the courts to second-guess the Legislature. Chief Justice Mike McGrath and Justice Jim Rice signed Warner's opinion while Justice Brian Morris concurred, but said he would have considered an appeal on the constitutionality of the law as applied in this case."

Here's the link to the Montana Supreme Court decision.

Bad Lawyer observation:  Justice Warner,  it is your job to "second-guess" the legislature.  That's what you promised to do when you said you would uphold the constitution of the State of Montana, and the United States of America. 

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