Will Kokkari Pay Bill for Customer Josh Calder's Alleged DUI Manslaughter?

Categories: Law & Order
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The Examiner's Brent Begin today published a juicy story. Peering through the prosecution's case against Josh Calder --- the alleged drunk driver accused of killing German cyclist Nils Linke -- he noted it highlighted an alcohol-saturated soiree at upscale FiDi restaurant Kokkari not long before the incident that claimed Linke's life. Calder and his girlfriend allegedly downed two bottles of wine, shots, and after-dinner drinks.

SF Weekly's calls to Kokkari were answered by tight-lipped employees who shunted us to a manager -- who's on vacation. But if the restaurant is worried about liability issues -- it shouldn't be, according to a legal expert we contacted.

Fred Del Marva is a nationally recognized expert in "dram shop laws" -- the rules that allow bars, restaurants, and other establishments to be held legally responsible for allowing inebriated patrons out onto the road. Del Marva has testified in more than 300 cases involving dram shop laws -- including a 2005 ruling in New Jersey against Giants Stadium beer vendor Aramark. The corporation was found to be half liable in a $135 million lawsuit by the family of a toddler paralyzed by a drunk-driving football fan.

But that's Jersey. In California, Del Marva notes, the Dram Shop Laws are largely toothless. "Unfortunately, California really has no dram shop law," says Del Marva. "The only dram shop law it has is if it's service to a minor. And that's a shame."

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Jim Herd
The 'ghost bike' serving as a memorial for Nils Linke at Turk and Masonic
While state law used to hold "Every person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to
be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage to any habitual or common drunkard or to any obviously intoxicated person is guilty of a misdemeanor," the rules were subsequently changed in the 1970s -- in a manner that massively favors the bars, liquor stores, and restaurants. 

The law currently reads: "No person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage ... shall be civilly liable to any injured person or the estate of such person for injuries inflicted on that person as a result of intoxication by the consumer of such alcoholic beverage." State law was this month altered to enhance penalties to adults who provide booze to children. The one tooth still remaining in the state's dram shop law, incidentally, was a prohibition against serving "obviously intoxicated minors." 

Since Calder is 36 and his girlfriend is, presumably, not a minor, it would seem Kokkari has no liability under state law for anything he may or may not have done on the night of Aug. 13. As for Calder, he entered a not guilty plea this morning to DUI and vehicular manslaughter charges, among others, and is free on $500,000 bail.

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