If an untested and novel legal theory succeeds, the wife and brother of a binge drinker with a string of drunken driving arrests could be held civilly liable for the death of a bicyclist because they supplied the car, insurance and alcohol to the driver.
The Northern California case uses a conspiracy theory to expand third-party liability as a means to avoid traditional limits on culpability under state dram-shop laws.
Dram-shop laws shield bar owners and social hosts from civil liability if they supply alcohol to a drinker who later causes a death.
Although the theory may be a long shot, a state judge has allowed the suit to proceed to discovery. The suit seeks damages from the wife and bar owner/brother of Joseph Lynchard, 74, of Santa Rosa, Calif.