Debate Brewing On Bars Over-Serving Patrons - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Debate Brewing On Bars Over-Serving Patrons

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There is a debate brewing in Montana. Should bars and their employees be held responsible to damage their patrons cause, if they leave the bar and get into a car?

Several Western Montana bars and their staff members have gotten in trouble for over-serving patrons. One bar was even shut down.

Teesha Beaver lost her brother, Brian Beaver Jr., two and a half years ago. A drunk driver crossed four lanes of traffic on Brooks Street, and hit Beaver as he was walking with friends.

"One of mine and my families biggest dreams is that Montana will change DUI laws to be stiffer," Teesha said.

Her brother was visiting from Washington state. He was on a trip to Yellowstone, when he stopped in Missoula for the night.

After filing motion after motion to delay his sentence, the driver who killed Beaver, 52-year-old Brian Holm of Lolo, just started serving his prison sentence in April, two years and five months after Beaver's death.

Beaver's sister said, "We just really want people to be aware of DUI laws in Montana, and how slack they are."

Holm is serving 30 years in prison with 15 years suspended on a charge of vehicular homicide while under the influence.

"Bars should be stepping up, and taking ownership," Teesha said.

Brian Beaver's family is now seeking damages against KT's Hayloft Saloon in Lolo, the bar Holm had been drinking at the night of the accident.

"Bartenders should be willing to cut people off when they're showing signs of intoxication," Teesha said.

The lawsuit, filed in November, said the bar over-served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated customer. Police reports show the driver was even allowed to leave the bar with a to-go cup full of alcohol, but legal experts say that's not necessarily breaking the law.

"That's a real good issue, and the fact is the courts wrestled with that issue," said Greg Munro, Associate Dean of the University of Montana School of Law.

Munro said according to state law, a bar can only be liable for over-serving a customer on certain conditions. The most common, and most difficult to prove, he said, is if a bar serves someone who is clearly intoxicated, which is what the Beaver's lawsuit alleges.

"Obviously, that's the dispute that comes up in a lot of places," Munro said. "There's going to be witnesses on both sides, saying the person was visible intoxicated, or they were not."

The lawsuit is seeking damages, including compensation for the love, care, comfort and companionship Brian provided his wife and young son.

"No other family should have and endure the pain that we have had to feel in the past two and a half years, I don't even wish that on the man who killed my brother."

Owner's of Hayloft Saloon have not responded to ABC FOX MONTANA.

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