Federal Court in South Carolina Denies Summary Judgment on Interpretation of “Liquor Liability” Insurance Policy

bar and loungeEveryone who drives an automobile should have liability insurance to pay medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering to a passenger, motorist, or pedestrian who is injured as a result of the driver’s own negligence. Otherwise, any judgment in a negligence lawsuit brought against the driver could be collected from his or her personal assets.

There are many types of liability insurance in addition to automobile liability polices. You might be interested to know that various types of businesses have special liability insurance policies to cover business-specific negligence claims. This includes businesses that sell or serve liquor. Bars and nightclubs may purchase this insurance to cover a judgment against them as a result of a “dram-shop” action based on the negligent sale or over-serving of alcohol that results in injuries or death to a third party.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a “liquor liability” insurance carrier that filed suit against the defendant, the insured under the policy, and an injured man who had filed a separate legal action against the insured. In a separate action filed in the Court of Common Pleas for Orangeburg County, South Carolina, the injured man sought compensation for injuries suffered in an assault that he alleged was caused by the insured’s negligence in serving excessive amounts of alcohol to another individual. Notably, the assault took place in a different establishment from the one owned by the insured.

The gist of the insurance company’s claim for declaratory relief was that, under the “clear and unambiguous terms” of the liquor liability insurance policy, it was not obligated to provide coverage to the insured or indemnify the insured should the injured man obtain a verdict against the insured in the other lawsuit. The insurance company filed a motion for summary judgment, which the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina at Orangeburg denied. The insurance company then filed a motion to reconsider.

The Federal District Court’s Decision on the Motion to Reconsider

The federal district court again denied the insurance company’s motion to reconsider its earlier denial of summary judgment. Although the insurance company insisted that it was not obligated to defend or indemnify the insured, the insured interpreted the policy as providing both a defense and indemnification regarding the injured man’s lawsuit. The court stood by its previous order declaring that genuine issues of material fact existed between the parties, thereby rejecting the insurance company’s contention that the denial of summary judgment had resulted in a manifest injustice to it.

Have Questions About a South Carolina Personal Injury Case?

Innocent people should not have to suffer because of others’ careless or reckless conduct. If you or a loved one has been hurt and believe that someone else is to blame, you should take timely legal action. Otherwise, your legal rights likely will be forever barred once the statute of limitations has run. To talk to a knowledgeable South Carolina personal injury lawyer about your case, call us at (864) 582-5118 to schedule a free consultation in our Spartanburg or Greenville offices.

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