Boston valet parking companies must hold keys from drunk drivers -- that may be required under a new ordinance if it is approved, reports The Boston Globe.
In a hearing called by Councilor Rob Consalvo, there was considerable discussion about a city ordinance that would require valet parking companies to hold keys from patrons that appear too drunk to drive.
One major point of discussion was whether Boston valet parking attendants have enough time and interaction with patrons to determine if they are too drunk to drive.
Of course, the underlying issue here is one not only of safety, but also of lawsuits. If valet parking companies must hold keys from drunk drivers, then when they fail to hold a key from an intoxicated drivers who then goes and injures somebody, the valet company could be on the hook in a personal injury action. They could be liable under a general negligence theory, or in what are generally called dram shop causes of actions.
In the state of Massachusetts, the authority for dram shop causes of actions comes not from a statute, but a court case called Cimino v. The Milford Keg (1981). In that case, the court said that for an establishment to be potentially held liable for the actions of an intoxicated customer, the customer had to be visibility intoxicated — and being drunk, loud, and vulgar, qualified for that. In other words, there is some guidance for valet park attendants on what they need to look out for.
Still, the point holds, valet park attendants are not service employees like a waiter or a bartender, who spend considerable time around alcohol and become adept at evaluating patrons.
Since Boston has not yet passed a valet parking attendant drunk driving ordinance, there is still time for ordinary citizens and businesses to get their word in to Council Rob Consalvo. One thing is for sure, if such an ordinance goes into place, there will be more personal injury cases around Boston.