- Associated Press - Monday, October 12, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The son of a man who died after fracturing his skull at an Omaha bar says Nebraska should hold bars liable for injuries and deaths caused by drunken customers.

Michael Drahota, 62, fell in the bathroom at Harold’s Bar and slipped into a coma after drinking over six hours on Jan. 14. He died two months later.

State law doesn’t cover overserving adults, unlike Iowa and many other states’ so-called “dram shop” laws, the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/1ZvBKEE ) reports.

Drahota’s son, Mike Drahota Jr., said he’s working to get a new dram shop law introduced during next year’s legislative session. His father had consumed 10 beers and 11 shots of alcohol, and his blood-alcohol level was .328 when he was brought to the hospital.

The bar was given a 20-day suspension of its liquor license by the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission. The bar’s manager, Harold Newbanks Jr., said it will avoid the suspension by paying $2,000 in fines, an option allowed by law.

Newbanks said the bar’s staff is more closely watching customers for signs of drunkenness. He said he had known Drahota for 45 years, and that he could “drink up a storm” without showing it. He described his death as a tragic accident.

“I feel very bad about the whole thing,” Newbanks said. “Mike was a great guy. Some guys just have their demons.”

Past dram shop law proposals have failed amid debate on whether businesses should be punished for an individual’s actions. Sen. Les Seiler, who heads the Judiciary Committee, said he would be willing to take another look.

Nichole Carritt of Omaha-based Project Extra Mile, which seeks to prevent underage drinking, said new faces in the Legislature will give a fresh perspective on the issue.

“It may be time for a renewed discussion of this issue in Nebraska,” she said.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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