Brickbat: Fill 'Er Up


New Mexico's Supreme Court has ruled that gas stations can be held liable if they sell fuel to a driver they should know is intoxicated. The ruling stems from a fatal DUI in 2011. Prior to that crash, the driver ran out of gasoline and went to a station to fill up a water can with fuel. After fueling his car, he drove back to the station and filled up his tank.

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  1. Ridiculous. Bartenders must be licensed for a reason. Gas station attendants have no training to identify inebriation. Will they have to give everyone a breathalyzer test before filling up? Aren’t most stations “self-service” where the attendant doesn’t even see the customer until after the gas tank is filled? The case should go to a federal court, be overruled, and the judge removed from the bench.

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    3. Since when did bartenders need a license? That’s the first I’ve ever heard of that.

      1. When I tended bar in KC, you needed a license on the Missouri side, but not on the Kansas side.

        The license process consisted of taking a course for a couple hours and then passing either a written or oral exam, and paying a nominal fee.

      2. In Arizona there’s mandatory training that has to be done for servers and managers. Its not a license – but its a license.

    4. This will just fuel further debate.

      1. The whole thing is just a gas!

    5. Even aside from that, I ave never understood the rationale that bartenders can be held liable for serving drinks to a drunk. Now if the drunk asked the bartender to call a taxi, and the bartender instead said “no overnight parking” and walked him out to his car, there might be a case, but even then, the drunk was the one who drove to the bar instead of taking a tax both ways.

      Seems to me there ought to be a legal doctrine of “original sin” for want of a better term, where you trace the cause of harm back to the source, and the drunk is at fault 99% of the time. But making a profit is icky, and it’s probably easier to convince a jury to make an icky business pay up, especially one which is so callous as to help people get drunk and kill innocent babies.

    6. Great! Now every gas station attendant will experience what cashier experience at grocery stores! If they get the wrong customer, they’ll be accused of “racism” for questioning their sobriety, just as cashiers face this accusation for asking for ID on alcohol and tobacco sales!

      At some point, a business needs to get up the stoneage to put up a sign that says:
      “You can get with stores, or you can get with woods.
      You can get with stores, or you can get with woods.
      You can get with stores, or you can get with woods.
      I think you’ll get with stores, ’cause in woods, YOU’D be the food!”

  2. At least we now have an answer to that age-old question: Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes, yes you are. And when you refuse to sell gasoline to your brother who appears to be intoxicated and it turns out he just has a slight case of cerebral palsy, your brother is going to sue the shit out of you.

    1. Yes, you have been tasked with providing absolute and endless care, implying that you have infinite abilities and resources. And that your brother has infinite helplessness and needs.

      Given that caring must be universal, those measures must be reversed when considering how your brother must watch out for you.

      Progressive math?

  3. Calling it a DUI based on blood alcohol instead of observed impairment is a misrepresentation that should get the case laughed out of a jury box.

    Obviously the guy wasn’t observably impaired, he managed to get a car working that had run out of gas a distance from a gas station.

    1. Get yourself a breathalyzer off Amazon, they’re pretty cheap, and test yourself to see how impaired you are at different BAC levels.
      You might be surprised at what you find.

      1. BAC is not impairment.

        Yes, there is a correlation, but it varies significantly, even for any one individual depending on other factors (and other intoxicants).

        And some drivers pose significant danger with zero BAC.

        1. Reality isn’t WKRP. Alcohol does indeed cause impairment.

          1. Wow, that is some epic-level misreading of the comment above. Earth doesn’t say that alcohol doesn’t cause impairment. Earth says that the degree of impairment is highly variable not just from person to person but even from drink to drink. BAC level is at best a proxy for level of impairment.

    2. The problem is that the law has been written so that DUI is based solely on BAC – impairment is not measured and is irrelevant for DUI.

      Essentially a .08 BAC is mandated by law to be illegal without any regard to underlying impairment.

      1. You cannot run a roadside sobriety test on someone who is carried to an ambulance and rushed to a hospital after causing a fatal crash, but causing that crash may be evidence of impairment. Physical evidence from the crash scene showing that someone was driving badly combined with a high BAC is often all the evidence that there is after a crash that leaves the other driver incapable of testifying, and juries generally agree that it is enough for a criminal conviction and years in prison.

        But IMO, it’s not sufficient evidence that the person was so obviously drunk that a convenience store clerk should be able to see it. (Unless there is video showing severe impairment.) The clerk did see him close up; he went into the store to buy a can to carry the gasoline. If you read the article, you’ll see that the case hinged on this, as contrasted with the typical case of filling up at a self-service pump using a credit card. It doesn’t say whether he told the clerk that he needed the can for gas for a car, but it’s likely that he did. (I’ve bought hundreds of cans of gas for a lawnmower, chain saw, weedeater, rototiller, tractor, generator, or moped, but only once for a car.)

        When he came back with the car, or in any other case not involving actually going into the store, the clerk would only see him before the gas was pumped if he paid cash _in advance_.

        1. Concerning a roadside sobriety test (at least in Colorado): those are strictly for collecting data from the scene and one does not have to submit to these tests. If one does not submit, they have to give a blood sample which happens at the police station. The roadside tests are not usable to show the driver was sober.

  4. “I think what the court did was it limited it to situations where the gas station employees have they know where they should have known that the driver was intoxicated,” Day said.

    Quoting while inebriated.

    1. “They’re not establishing liability when the driver simply pulls up to the pump, pumps the gas himself and takes off.”

      We’ll see.

  5. The only way they would know is if an LEO would perform a breathalyzer on said customer. Let govt keep going out of it’s way to transfer blame for poor actors on those not responsible.

    1. Of course the real issue the lawyers (including judge) won’t say out loud: you can’t get a jackpot settlement out of an unemployed alcoholic, but you can out of a successful chain of convenience stores.

      1. Exactly. And what are judges? Former lawyers. So the 33% helps out their colleagues. All part of the judicial system industrial complex.

  6. Won’t be an issue once cars are fitted with mandatory alcohol detecting hardware that hasn’t been invented yet.

    1. Shudders……

  7. Judges should have to pass breathalyzer tests each time they take the bench. And the lawyers, too.

    1. Ever hear about the alcoholic that wanted to become a lawyer? He gave up on this dream because he couldn’t pads the bar.

      1. Or pass the bar. 😉

    2. And a prostate examine, and for the sake of equality even if they don’t have a prostate.

    3. I saw that Cheech and Chong movie!

    4. And the Legislatures and the Executive and Administative agencies.

      Now the question is who would administer the tests? Perhaps civilian volunteers. The closer to libertarian they are, the better.

  8. Sounds like we me also need a Protection in Lawful Commerce of Fuel Act

  9. Meh. Gasoline will soon be illegal so no action is necessary–unless you believe in gratuitous criminal behavior laws.

  10. How does a gas station attendant check? Because you just pay at the pump.

    1. Read the _fine_ article. He walked to the store and bought a container for the gas. That requires going into the store and paying at the counter. BUT nothing in the article indicates whether the guy was so visibly intoxicated that a convenience store clerk could easily tell, or whether the clerk had any reason to think he would use the gas for a car. Perhaps there is a security video of him staggering in and slurring his speech drunkenly while asking for something to carry gas to his car, but it doesn’t say…

      That he drove to the station later to fill up the car should have been irrelevant – unless he paid _cash in advance_, which I hope is pretty uncommon these days.

  11. After fueling his car, he drove back to the station and filled up his tank.

    Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve filled a car up with gas, siphoned it to an empty vehicle, drove it back to the station, and filled it again (sober!).

  12. I believe that dependence appears only when you do not know the measure. There is nothing wrong with ordering delivery here and having a good time with your friends

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