Alcohol + Energy Drink = Negligence?

The family of a man killed by his best friend almost 2 years ago after a night at a strip club in Portland, Maine filed a lawsuit that alleges the club was negligent in serving the man energy drinks to mask how drunk he was.

Robert Wagner was shot in the head twice by his best friend, Steven Clark, during an argument. The two men and another friend were at a strip club, Platinum Plus, for more than 5 hours before the incident. Clark is currently serving a 43-year sentence for the crime at the Maine state prison in Warren.

Testimony indicated that the men each drank more than 10 drinks that evening. They were served mixtures of vodka and Red Bull, the highly sugared and caffeinated drink known as an energy booster. After 1:00am, the bar started to serve Red Bull without alcohol.

According to the complaint, filed by Andrews Campbell, a Bowdoinham lawyer who is working for the estate of Wagner, “Platinum Plus serves Red Bulls without alcohol from 1 a.m. to closing to promote the ‘caffeine high’ and energy to drive home, which prevents the patrons from realizing the degree of intoxication.”

The lawsuit names Platinum Plus, one of its employees, the friend and Clark as defendants and alleges wrongful death and negligence.

The mixture of alcohol and energy drinks has been in the news recently, with Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe a leading critic of the marketing of these drinks.

“Caffeine is a stimulant that can mask feelings of intoxication, giving drivers the false impression that they can drink more and function normally,” Rowe said in a statement released February 21. “This is a recipe for disaster.”

Whether or not a club serving these drinks can be held accountable for a person’s death remains to be seen. Campbell will have to prove that Wagner’s death was a “foreseeable and imminent result of negligence by Platinum Plus and the server.” According to a professor at the University of Maine School of Law in Portland, Maine falls “somewhere in the middle” when it comes to protecting bars and other establishments that sell liquor from lawsuits like this one.

Paul Clement, director of operations for Platinum Plus, declined comment to the Portland Press Herald on Tuesday. He said he had not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit.

Read More
From the Portland Press Herald: Suit calls strip club negligent in killing

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