Dram shop liability refers to laws and statutes which make retail businesses responsible for injuries due to selling or providing alcoholic beverages to clearly inebriated customer or minors under 21 years of age. Dram shop statutes or laws create accountability for sellers of alcoholic beverages.  They are designed to reduce the likelihood of drunk driving and drunken behavior.  And so these laws or statutes focus on the enabler as opposed to just the intoxicated wrongdoer. Additionally, these statutes and laws help to ensure the service industry maintains appropriate practices and procedures to prevent alcohol abuse from harming others.

Just about every state differs concerning who is accountable whenever a drunken customer causes accidental injuries or wrongful death to themselves or to other people. States which do enforce dram shop laws differ based on how each state defines words such as:

  • Intoxication
  • Guest or patron
  • Sale or Sell
  • Retailer
  • Inebriation

The similarity between most state dram shop laws or statutes is the application of an “obvious intoxication test.” This is the standard for an alcohol seller or provider for knowing or recognizing, or whether they should know or recognize, when the consumer is drunk–so that any further alcohol intake could lead to risk to that person or members of the public.

Aspects of Dram Shop Statutes

Even though dram shop laws from each state differ broadly, there are common aspects of responsibility. Normally, reasons to file a suit consist of the following:

  • A merchant or seller of liquor,
  • Sold liquor to an inebriated individual or minor under the age of 21, and
  • The inebriation ended up being a proximate cause for injuries or death to another person

Some states apply dram shop legal responsibility to corporate or individual social hosts that give alcohol at no cost. This source of legal responsibility creates an increased quantity of lawsuits. As a result, people wanting to sponsor a social or company function in a state which has such liability might consider using the same or similar safeguards that commercial businesses utilize.

Proximate Cause

Dram shop laws necessitate that the harmed individual, filing suit against a commercial establishment, prove that without the act of providing or selling the alcoholic drinks, the injury to said individual would not have occurred. Generally, the type of evidence that is significant includes: the type and quantity of alcoholic beverages consumed by the intoxicated person, other patrons testimony as to the observable condition or behavior of the intoxicated person before and during the consumption of more alcohol, and any toxicology analysis of alcohol by law enforcement.


Dram shop laws are made to compensate individuals harmed because of reckless sales or provision of alcoholic drinks when it is obvious that this should not have occurred; however, some laws incorporate constraints on the compensation that an injured person may obtain. Awards for mental suffering and related intangible injuries are generally not recoverable except in cases where the individual has suffered a bodily injury or death.

Call now to speak with an attorney at the Clore Law Group regarding your potential dram shop lawsuit.

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