The 101 on Dram Shop Laws and Impact on Beverage Establishments

by ebeleo on November 7, 2012

  • SumoMe

(US law and generally) Every state has the ability to set their own dram shop laws, and this sometimes makes it confusing for people to know who can be held legally responsible for a DUI. It is common for states to allow an injured person who was not drinking to file a third-party dram shop lawsuit against the establishment that sold alcohol to the drunk driver who caused the accident. Some states also allow the individual who drove drunk to file a first-party dram shop case if they can prove that certain factors played a part in their decision to drive while intoxicated.

What is a Third-Party Dram Shop Case?

According to our injury lawyer in Montgomery County, anytime an individual is injured as the result of a drunk driver, they have the option to pursue legal action if the driver became intoxicated at a bar or restaurant. There are laws against serving alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated, and if there are any witnesses who can prove that this happened, the restaurant or bar can be held legally responsible for the accident. Therefore, it is important for the owner of any establishment that sells alcohol to strictly enforce the law. Their employees must always verify that they are not serving someone underage, they must cut someone off once it is clear they are becoming drunk and they should never serve a drink if they can tell that one more drink is going to put the person over the legal limit.

What is a First-Party Dram Shop Case?

Because of the legal responsibilities listed above, there are some states that will allow the drunk driver to sue the bar or restaurant that served them. If the driver can prove that the establishment failed to live up to their legal responsibility, then they can file a case that blames their DUI on both the establishment in general and the bartender who served them. The fact that people have a more difficult time making wise decisions when they are intoxicated is the main reason that the law requires business who serve alcohol to make a judgment call about when their patrons should be cut off. If the establishment fails to make a judgment call and instead continues to serve someone who is clearly intoxicated, then they can be held at fault for anything that happens after the driver gets behind the wheel.

Protecting Your Business

If you own a business that serves alcohol, you need to take the law very seriously. It is not enough to simply say that you could not tell if an individual was intoxicated. According to the law, you are required to serve alcohol in a responsible manner, even if that means a dip in your profits because you have to cut people off. Because third-party dram shop cases are becoming increasingly popular, it is quite simply not worth the risk of ending up in court.

In order to avoid legal consequences from either a first-party or a third-party dram shop case, you should ensure that all of your employees have a firm understanding of their legal responsibilities. Keep in mind that repeated violations that cause multiple DUI convictions can easily lead to you losing your business. If you follow the guidelines of the law, however, you can rest assured that you will be likely to win any dram shop cases that are brought against you.

Bianca Ochoa is a freelance writer and legal researcher with an interest in personal injury and corporate laws. She is also a contributing author for McMahon and Lentz, an injury lawyer in Montgomery County. The firm provides experienced representation in liquor liability cases.

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