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Court Excludes ‘Free Drink’ Evidence

A Norfolk Circuit Court grants defendant restaurant owner’s motion in limine to bar plaintiff from making any argument or implication that by serving “free drinks” to a co-defendant and his group, the movant violated Va. Code § 4.1-308.

Defendant’s motion in limine related to proffered evidence that during the course of events which gave rise to this cause of action, defendant Epicurian’s employees provided alcoholic beverages to defendant Brainard and his group, free of charge.

The essential question the court must answer is whether evidence relating to these “free drinks” is admissible, and if so the extent of that admissibility.

The court finds that any provision of “free drinks” from Epicurian (a licensee) to Brainard and his group (non-licensees) is not a per se violation of Va. Code § 4.1-308, the statute cited in open court by plaintiff’s counsel. The court also finds that if this conduct ran afoul of the Code, plaintiff would be unable to present such evidence because that theory of recovery was not raised in the pleadings.

The court grants defendant Epicurian’s motion and orders that plaintiff is barred from making any argument or implication that defendant violated Code § 4.1-308, or any other related statute, at trial. This ruling does not, however, prohibit the admission of evidence that Epicurian provided these “free drinks” on the night in question for a permissible evidentiary purpose.

Hoover v. Epicurian (Jones) CL 14-4741, May 8, 2015; Norfolk Cir.Ct.; Louis N. Joynes, Jeremiah A. Denton III, David L. Little for the parties. VLW 015-8-052, 2 pp.

VLW 015-8-052

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