NAII Asks Washington Court of Appeals to Reverse Lower Court Ruling

November 27, 2001

Liability insurance is not designed to cover each drink served to an already intoxicated customer as a separate incident, with maximum policy limits applying separately to each one, according to the National Association of Independent Insurers.

The NAII filed a friend of the court brief asking the Washington Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court ruling that held to the contrary in the case of Spratt et al v. Crusader Insurance Co. The lower court ruled that the $1-million liability limit for selling alcohol to an intoxicated person under Crusader’s policy applied to each time the person was served after becoming intoxicated, up to the $2-million aggregate limit in the policy.

“The language in this policy is clear and should be interpreted accordingly,” said Monika McGuire, NAII assistant general counsel, legal services. “The policy is clearly not intended to provide separate coverage for each individual alcoholic beverage, but rather for service to any one person irrespective of how many actual beverages are served.

“The policy sets a $1 million maximum responsibility limit for serving alcohol to one individual,” she continued. “To try to make the coverage apply to how many drinks were served could raise such variables as the size of the glass, for example. It would be impossible to set one standard that would apply equally to all businesses and individuals in all circumstances.”

The case stems from a lawsuit filed by individuals and heirs of individuals who were injured by a driver who became intoxicated while drinking at a pub and restaurant operated by Lawrence and Jane Spratt.

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