Dram Shop Liability Explained

If you own or operate a business where alcoholic beverages are sold, you must meet a number of standards to ensure your business is up to code and operating in a legal manner. However, even after you meet these requirements, you must also consistently act in the best interests of your patrons.

Alcohol impairment causes great risk to drivers and pedestrians, and keeping customers from potentially harming themselves or others is at least partially the responsibility of those who serve alcohol. If a bartender over-serves a patron who gets in a car and causes a fatal accident, the bar could be held partially liable in a wrongful death suit if the plaintiff claims the establishment was guilty of statutory negligence. This falls under an area of the law called the dram shop rule, founded on the idea that because the establishment is in control of the alcohol, it has a responsibility to cut off patrons who have had too much to drink.

In case of an injury, the liability of the bar or restaurant is far from automatic. The plaintiff must prove certain circumstances were evident for the establishment to be held fully responsible for the resulting death or injury. Essentially, the plaintiff must demonstrate that despite the establishment’s reasonable responsibility to conform to a standard of conduct, it failed to act in a responsible manner. There must also be a link in causality between the alleged over-serving and the resulting injury, and the injury or property damage must have resulted in a tangible loss.

Bartenders and servers need to know what responsible drinking looks like and should be careful not to over-serve patrons, especially if those patrons are likely to drive afterward. If you have any questions about dram shop liability or would like to explore your options for receiving compensation, seek the counsel of a skilled personal injury attorney today.

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