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Dillon officer inspires new law to hold bars responsible for over serving patrons

The scene of the wreck that left Dillon officer Jacob Richardson paralyzed. (WPDE file)

Bars and other alcohol-serving businesses will now be required to have liability insurance that could help victims who are wounded, paralyzed, or worse, due to alcohol-related crimes.

The Dram Shop bill goes into effect tomorrow, July 1, and was inspired by the crash that changed the life of Dillon Police Officer Jacob Richardson.

On July 6, 2014, Richardson was responding to a call at the Stables night club for a disturbance. On his way to the club, Richardson was hit by a drunk driver, who had been overserved at the club.

Richardson suffered a permanent brain injury with lasting injuries, according to Dillon Police Chief David Lane.

Related: Dillon officer crashed minutes after being dispatched to help fellow officer

Jenni Hunt was charged with Felony DUI for the crash. Bobbi Lynn Britt, 29, of Pembroke was a passenger in Hunt's car and died from injuries suffered in the crash.

"The night club had no insurance and passed their liability onto the City. Dillon has since been forced to pay over $1 million for Officer Richardson’s medical care and expenses, while the night club has not paid a dime," according to a news release from the South Carolina Association for Justice.

The association worked closely with the Jacob Richardson, his father, Eddie, and legislative leaders to help make sure this does not happen again, the release said.

"Sadly, this common-sense requirement was not on the books in time to help Jacob and his family. Their tragic experience clearly shows how this new law will quite literally be a lifesaver for many families. It will also protect business owners who serve alcohol by prohibiting hidden alcohol exclusions of insurance coverage in the fine print of their policies. South Carolina is better today because the legislature recognized that sound public policy is holding folks accountable for their actions,” said SCAJ President Alex Cash in the release.

Specifically, the bill requires that any business that renews or applies for an on-premise alcohol license from the South Carolina Department of Revenue that sells alcohol after 5 p.m.,will be required to carry a minimum $1 million liquor liability policy.

"Until now, there was no such requirement in place leaving victims of alcohol-related crimes with few options," the release said.

The case against Hunt is still pending.

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