Monday, December 8, 2008

A Dry Lambeau?

Great piece over on the Turley-blog about a settlement by Giants Stadium with a girl paralyzed in a post-game car accident caused by a drunken Giant's fan driving home after the game.  The parties settled the case for $25 Million.  

The settlement is unique:
Dram shop liability judgments remain rare for stadiums due to the environment. The vendors are constantly moving around and often overlap with other vendors. Eye-witnesses tend to be less useful in the highly chaotic atmosphere of a game. Often different people will buy beer at different times. However, this case shows that liability can still be established even in this fluid environment.
Not only that.  Booze is cheap in the parking lot and expensive in the stadium.  Fans drink accordingly.  I would wager that most fans consume far more alcohol before the game than they do during it.

In any event, while I doubt this single case will cause much change if any, a couple more and we could see new policies in place and I do think dry stadiums could be a---albeit remote---possibility.  

Simple math shows why.  The capacity at Lambeau Field is 78,928.  Assume that every fan buys two alcoholic drinks at the stadium.  I think this is a fair estimate.  Some will buy many more drinks, and many fans will not buy any.  Also assume that the stadium earns a six dollar profit on each drink.  Here, I am just taking a wild guess and trying to over estimate if possible.  That would mean that the stadium clears $947,136 per game on alcohol sales.

It would take the Packers over 3 seasons in alcohol sales to recoup the cost of a $25 Million lawsuit.  If such suits become more common place, sooner or later stadiums will have to ask themselves if it is even worth it.

I don't think we will see dry stadiums any time soon.  Still, if someone were to tell you 15 years ago that it would become illegal to smoke in bars, you probably would have laughed at them too.


  1. Actually, if your numbers on alcohol sales are correct, it would take a little over 2 and a half seasons to recover the $25M. They do sell beer at the preseason games as well (and at least used to at the family night scrimmage, though they may not any more).

    Regardless, couldn't your logic be applied to any commercial establishment that sells alcohol? You seem to concede that stadiums are less likely to get stung by a dram shop judgment than other estalishments. Yet few taverns make $10M in profit on alcoholic beverages a year (certainly the ones I go to don't come close). So wouldn't this math suggest that it's never worth the money to serve alcoholic beverages regardless of ther type of establishment? Bars all over the country should be closing up shop because of the risk. Yet few do.

  2. Good points. I'd interested finding out how many bars actually do go under due to dram shop liability. I'd suspect that plenty do go under every year, but that because there are so many bars in this country no one really notices that much.

    On another note, would a jury award $25 Million against Local Bob and Sally? Probably not. Would they award $ 25 Million against an NFL stadium? Much more likely. That's just how it works. Often the deeper the pockets the bigger the award.