Is a bar owner responsible for the death of a client who dies after drinking 56 shots?
That's what judges in France will have to decide after the owner of a bar in the central city of Clermont-Ferrand stands trial on Monday charged with “manslaughter by willful neglect” after one of his patrons died in breaking the bar’s record for the number of shots drank in one evening.
On one night last October the 57-year-old client, named Renaud, downed a total of 56 shots (shooters) in front of his daughter and friends at a bar called "Le Starter".
A blackboard in the bar made clients aware that the previous record stood at 55, which the 57-year-old took on the challenge of beating.
That exploit saw him drink 30 shooters in just one minute, which are either straight shots or can be made up of different spirits with mixers. With each shooter including between 20ml and 40ml of hard alcohol it meant the father drank more than a litre of spirits.
After being carried home by his daughter and friends the man later went into cardiac arrest. He was rushed to hospital but died the next day.
Now a French criminal court must decide whether the bar owner is in some way responsible for the death of his patron.
According to reports in BFM TV the father had already downed 14 shots before he decided to go for the record.
According to his daughter the landlord of the bar whispered “only 12 to go” at one point, seemingly encouraging him to carry on.
“It is not known whether he would still be alive if he had not drunk the last 12 shots, but by making down those last shots, he was left with no chance,” said the daughter’s lawyer Antoine Portal.
“It was a case of inciting someone to consume. That’s an extremely serious mistake for a bar owner.”
However this has been denied by the man’s lawyer who said he actually told the man he should stop his quest to break the record.
Lawyer Renaud Portejoie has acknowledged that the board behind the bar making clients aware of the existing record for shooters was “a mistake”, but said “no one forced the client to take on the challenge".
“When you are the owner of a bar and an order has been placed, you cannot always verify who is drinking what. We cannot stand behind every customer,” the bar owner's lawyer told RMC radio.
“The customers are responsible for themselves as are their families and friends.”
The trial comes at a time when France is trying to crack down on binge drinking, the rise of which has been blamed on the influence of drinking habits from Britain and the States.
“Getting dead drunk used to be seen as degrading, now it’s seen as a positive thing,” Laurent Gerbaud, professor of public health at the Clermont Ferrand university hospital told France Info radio at the time ofthe man's death.
“We are seeing a new type of competition emerge.”
A recent health bill that was voted through parliament included measures to crack down on those who encourage people, particularly youngsters, to binge drink.
If the bill becomes law, people who encourage minors to drink excessively will face a year behind bars and a €15,000 fine. And anyone who incites others to “drink until drunk” will face up to six months in prison as well as a fine into the thousands.