When thinking about liability in a drunk driving accident, it’s common to assume that the drunk driver is the only potentially liable party. However, there are various laws in place that allow accident victims to pursue a claim against other parties, such as bars and restaurants or manufacturers and distributors of a dangerous product that contributed to the accident.
For example, recently, a federal judge issued an opinion in a case involving a fatal accident caused by a driver under the influence of Ultra Duster, a commonly-available inhalant most frequently used to clean electronics. According to the court’s opinion, a man purchased a can of Ultra Duster at Walmart. He inhaled the contents before getting behind the wheel. As he was driving, he lost control of the vehicle, hitting and killing two children and an adult.
While the victims’ families certainly had a potential case against the driver, in his case, the court was tasked with determining whether the distributor of Ultra Duster was also liable for the accident under a theory of strict product liability. Ultimately, the court held that, while the distributor placed the product into the stream of commerce, the connection between the company’s actions and the victims’ death amounted to “speculation.” Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s strict liability claims.