Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Underage drinkers could face lawsuits

Underage drinkers who purchase alcoholic beverages in liquor stores or bars could potentially face lawsuits.

A storeowner in New Hampshire recently filed suit against a University of New Hampshire student who used his older brother’s valid driver’s license to purchase alcoholic beverages.

Officials fined the storeowner $250 after the patron was caught by the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, which inspired the subsequent lawsuit.

While this case was within the New Hampshire court system, law officials in Madison say similar lawsuits are possible in Wisconsin.

Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Zilavy said since such a lawsuit would be a private matter, nothing would stop a liquor store or bar owner from pursuing legal action against patrons who falsely identify themselves.

“Of course, anybody could sue anybody over anything,” Zilavy said. “It’s certainly a possibility, but I don’t recall it ever happening here.”

No law professors or professional lawyers interviewed knew of any lawsuit in Madison like the one in New Hampshire, and most said they did not know whether a store or bar owner would have a successful case.

UW-Madison political science professor Donald Downs said such a suit is possible.

“It’s amazing what kinds of things get passed off as lawsuits,” he said.

Because it is unlawful for a customer to present false identification to a liquor store or bar employee, UW law professor Herbert Kritzer said the business might have a potentially successful case.

“I’m not familiar with an example of a case like this here,” he said. “But it would depend on whether the bar or store exercised its responsibility under the law to check the customer’s ID.”

If a lawsuit like this was pursued, Downs said its successfulness would depend on the details of the incident, and the business owner would need to show that selling the liquor to the underage customer was the leading cause of police issuing the business a citation.

“If you have someone who looks of age, and no reasonable liquor store employee would recognize their ID as being fake, there might be grounds for a suit,” Downs said. “It’s definitely within the realm of thinking.”

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