South Carolina Supreme Court decision 2010



Hartfield v. The Getaway Lounge & Grill, Inc.

(Heard June 11, 2009 – Filed July 26, 2010)

South Carolina does not have a Dram Shop Act.  South Carolina’s civil remedy arises out of crimial statutes.

Case Summary -

In July 2003, Hoyt Helton drove his vehicle across the center line and struck a vehicle in which John Hartfield (father) was a passenger.  Helton was killed and Hartfield and his son suffered serious injuries.  Hartfield field suit against three bars visited by Helton and the jury returned a verdict awarding Hartfield $8 million and $2 million for Hartfield’s father.  The trial court also granted Hartfield’s motion to pierce the corporate veil of the Getaway Lounge & Grill making the owner liable in the amount awarded by the jury.  The verdict was appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Issues -

  • The court must prove visible intoxication
  • The employee “should have known” the patron was intoxicated
  • Piercing the Corporate Veil

Findings -

  • South Carolina statutes (S.C. Code 61-4-580) prohibit employees from knowingly selling alcohol to intoxicated patrons.  The statute does not contain a requirement that the intoxicated person be visibly intoxicated.
  • Knowing a patron was consuming alcohol at your establishment satisfies the statute for “should have known”.
  • The courts allowed the Corporate Veil to be pierced exposing the permittee to personal liability for selling to an intoxicated patron.
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