When bar owners and servers provide alcohol to a minor or someone who is already intoxicated, and that person leaves and injures or kills a third party, the owner and server could be held responsible under dram shop liability laws. The injuries don’t have to be caused because of driving; they can be caused by other incidents, such as falls, assaults, or alcohol poisoning, to name a few.
Originally, these laws were put in place to change the behavior of individual drinkers. Over time, however, the purpose of dram shop laws has evolved. Now, the focus is primarily to protect the public from the irresponsible sale or service of alcohol to minors or visibly intoxicated people. The rules don’t just govern bars — any business that sells alcohol to a minor or obviously drunk person can be held liable if the person is injured or injures someone else. This includes convenience stores, grocers, wine and liquor shops, “beer gardens”, wineries, and others.
If the victim can prove that their injury would not have happened absent the violation of dram shop law, or that the injury would have been less significant had alcohol not been a factor, then they may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. A plaintiff must also prove that the person selling or serving alcohol knew about the age, or intoxication level, of the patron. In other words, plaintiffs bear the burden of establishing the link between the knowing violation of dram shop law and the injury ultimately caused.
Dram shop law prescribes a variety of safety regulations. Violations of those rules may include actions such as those we’ve already discussed – over service of alcohol and selling alcohol to a minor. A vendor could also be held liable for selling alcohol without a license, without checking the patron’s ID, or for selling after business hours or outside of alcohol sale hours, which varies state to state .