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2011 Cornerstone Casework: Ransin Injury Law

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Don Nelson, a high school coach, died from injuries sustained in a 2009 head-on crash on his motorcycle with a customer of Pepper’s Sports Bar & Grill in Pulaski County, who was driving a truck the wrong way on a one-way street. The customer had purchased and consumed an estimated 10 to 13 beers between 6–10 p.m. the evening of the crash before leaving the bar and getting behind the wheel of his vehichle. Holding bars responsible for injuries or deaths caused by customers after they leave is difficult, and governed in Missouri by the Dram Shop Act, which adopts English common law, essentially prohibiting bars from being held liable unless specific and hard-to-prove requirements are met. The statute also states that the mere furnishing of alcoholic drinks is not the proximate cause of injuries inflicted by intoxicated people. Successful Dram Shop claims usually require eyewitness testimony that the customer was drunk when served, but no witnesses would testify in this case. Within a year of taking the case, attorney David Ransin secured an offer from Farmer’s Insurance Group, the bar’s insurer, to pay $1 million – the bar’s full liability limit – to settle all claims before the bar was named as a party in the case.

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