Is the person serving you, liable for you?
“Dram shops”, a legal term in the United States, refers to a bar, or saloon that serves alcoholic beverages, and are liable in certain states for the alcohol they serve their customers.
Dram shop laws are specifically targeted at those bars that serve visibly intoxicated patrons, and establish liability to those injured as a result of such service.
For instance, say a drunk man walks into a bar (or “dram shop” as it were), orders a drink, and the bartender gives the man his drink. The man pounds the beverage, leaves the bar, gets in his car, and as he pulls away from the bar, hits a woman driving.
In those jurisdictions with dram shop laws, the bar could be liable for his actions.
The laws were designed to protect the general public from the dangers of servicing visibly drunk patrons, and children.
The language of the Alabama Dram Shop Act states:
-Every wife, child, parent, or other person who shall be injured in person, property, or means of support by any intoxicated person or in consequence of the intoxication of any person shall have a right of action against any person who shall, by selling, giving, or otherwise disposing of to another, contrary to the provisions of law, any liquors or beverages, cause the intoxication of such person for all damages actually sustained, as well as exemplary damages.
In order to show a violation of the Dram Shop Act, the plaintiff must prove three elements: The sale must have:
-been contrary to the provisions of law
-been the cause of the intoxication
-resulted in the plaintiff’s injury
“Contrary to the provisions of law” means that the sale has to be illegal, such as to a minor, a sale in a in a “dry” county or to an obviously intoxicated person, (which is prohibited by a section of the Alabama administrative code).
The language of the Dram Shop Act has been interpreted by the courts to apply only to “sellers” of beverages, and not to apply to “social host.”
If you have been injured by a drunk individual, you may be able to recover from the dram shop who served him.
Consult with an attorney to see if your state enforces such dram shop laws.
A Cum Laude Honors graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Alabama tort law expert Mike Roberts has successfully litigated cases covering civil litigation, personal injury, negligence, product liability, wrongful death and fraud. He is the author of six editions of Alabama Tort Law, and is licensed to practice law before the United States Supreme Court.