Dram Shop Liquor Liability
Shamblin v. 7-Eleven, Inc. and Prima Marketing
Type of Case: Dram Shop Liquor Liability
On December 15, 2006, Jeremy Lee Shamblin and his children, Cody James Shamblin (age 7) and Haylee Dawn Shamblin (age 7), were traveling southbound on the highway in Mr. Shamblin’s pick-up truck when another pick-up truck traveling northbound in the southbound lane struck Mr. Shamblin’s pick-up truck head on. All occupants of both vehicles were killed in the accident. Two men in the other pick-up truck registered blood alcohol levels in excess of the legal limit. The Shamblin family retained Chris Heavens and Heavens immediately sent an investigator to trace the whereabouts of the intoxicated men prior to the accident. It was learned that the men had been drinking at a 7-Eleven store parking lot during a 4-hour period leading up to the accident. Heavens immediately sent a letter to 7-Eleven requesting that they preserve all video surveillance footage from December 15, 2006. This proved critical to the case. Once the store surveillance video footage was turned over during the lawsuit, it showed the intoxicated men buying three bottles of wine at the 7-Eleven store. Heavens’ investigator obtained witness statements confirming that the men had consumed the wine on the 7-Eleven parking lot in plain view. The witness statements also proved critical, since 7-Eleven initially asserted that the men left the 7-Eleven store parking lot after purchasing the wine.
7-Eleven, Inc. denied responsibility and asserted that it had no involvement in the operation of the subject 7-Eleven store. It asserted that Prima Marketing was a franchisee and totally independent of 7-Eleven, Inc. Prima also denied responsibility and disputed the witness statements, asserting that the men were not visibly intoxicated and not drinking on the store parking lot. Heavens was able to uncover evidence that 7-Eleven Inc. was involved in the operation of the franchise, actually showing how 7-Eleven shared profits on the sale of alcohol and tracked by computer the sales at its franchises. The case was eventually settled with all defendants contributing to the settlement.
Note: This case points to the importance of an attorney’s use of an investigator and a thorough investigation early in the case. It also points to the importance of a person retaining a lawyer immediately; something that I always recommend. An attorney’s early involvement and focus on evidence preservation is critical. By immediately requesting that 7-Eleven preserve its video surveillance tape, defendants were not able to dispose of the videotape without facing potential court sanction and possibly the wrath of a jury.