Dram Shop (Alcohol) Liability
Dram Shop laws involve alcohol and prohibit the sales of alcohol to specific people. A Dram Shop violation is a strict liability tort. A tort is a wrongful act or an infringement of a right—other than under a contract—that leads to a civil legal liability.
Under Dram Shop law, entities that sell alcohol have a duty to not sell alcohol to specific people. Court interpretation of Dram Shop law involves accidents caused by the improper sale of alcohol. In the State of New York, it is against the law to sell alcohol to individuals who are “actually or apparently” under the age of 21, as well as to individuals who are “visibly intoxicated.” The courts allow recovery for injuries that are caused by people who sell alcohol in violation of this law.
Under New York State Dram Shop law, the injured party must be able to show one of the situations. The injured party must show injury by another individual who was intoxicated at the time of that injury; or must show that there was an unlawful commercial sale of alcohol to the intoxicated person by a merchant, restaurant, or bar that sold alcohol to a person who was “actually or apparently” under the age of 21 or who was visibly intoxicated at the time of the sale; or the sale of alcohol caused or contributed to the person’s intoxication. Dram Shop case proof is often challenging given the requirement of “visibly intoxicated” as it is not always apparent when an individual is visibly intoxicated. In fact, some individuals are intoxicated well before intoxication becomes apparent. The definition of “visibly intoxicated” is left to the discretion of the employee serving the alcohol. Some signs of visible intoxication may include slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and lack of physical coordination.
For instance, if an eating establishment serves alcohol to an individual who appears to be under the age of 21 and the establishment does not ask that individual for identification, and that person is younger than 21 and becomes intoxicated. The establishment becomes liable under the Dram Shop law if the intoxicated minor drives a motor vehicle and injures individuals on the road. Another example is if a bartender serves a customer who has stumbled into the bar and is speaking with slurred speech. If that seemingly inebriated customer finishes his or her drink, leaves the bar, drives his or her car, and hits another car, the bar is liable under the Dram Shop Act.
The Dram Shop law places liability on drinking establishments—taverns, pubs, bars, etc.—that serve individuals that are clearly intoxicated. These institutions may be liable for damages to third parties who allegedly suffer injuries resulting from the sale of alcohol. Also most Dram Shop laws make it illegal to serve alcohol to minors who are intoxicated.
The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have decades of experience representing clients in personal injury lawsuits. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations. Our lawyers are available to answer any questions you may have about pursuing a case.
Individuals allegedly injured under the Dram Shop law should seek immediate medical attention, document the situation, and speak to an attorney as soon as possible given that the time frame to file a lawsuit is limited.
Specifics of the Dram Shop Law in New York State
In the state of New York, the Dram Shop Law is found in the New York General Obligations Law and the law is unique because patrons may not sue the business establishment, rather, the establishment that served the alcohol may be held liable for damages triggered to third parties injured by the establishment’s patrons who were served alcohol.
The laws in New York also hold the bar liable should the bar’s patron injure a pedestrian. In fact, damages are not limited to vehicular accidents and may include situations in which the patron engages in a fight or attacks an uninvolved bystander. Employees are also prohibited from serving alcohol to persons who are known to be habitually drunk. In New York State, Dram Shop law does not include a defined description of visible intoxication, which means that the establishment serving the alcohol must use its discretion to set a standard to determine visible intoxication.
In New York state, Dram Shop actions typically involve at least three parties: The drinking establishment that provided the liquor, the bar patron who consumed the liquor, and any individuals injured by the intoxicated patron. Because of the multiple parties involved, it is likely that there may be overlapping claims and conflicts of interest.
In the State of New York, the courts have typically interpreted the Dram Shop law as only applying in those cases that involved the commercial sale of alcohol. This means that in situations in which an intoxicated person is given alcohol and later causes injury, the Dram Shop law is not applicable unless the alcohol was provided for profit arising from the distribution of the alcohol. In situations in which an individual under the legal age to drink alcohol is provided alcohol in a private home and not for a profit, the Dram Shop law does not apply. In addition to the Dram Shop law mandate that the sale of alcohol be for commercial purposes, the alcohol must have been sold directly to the intoxicated person or persons who allegedly caused the damages and/or the injury. Because of this, the purchase of alcohol by a person other than the intoxicated individual who caused the damages, and which is shared with or provided to the individual, is not sufficient to hold the establishment serving alcohol liable under the Dram Shop law.
In the state of New York, the patron of an establishment serving alcohol who was served liquor may not bring a lawsuit against that establishment for alleged damages and/or injuries which he or she sustained. Only third parties who have suffered damages and/or injuries may bring a lawsuit against the establishment under the Dram Shop law. If the intoxicated person is killed due to his or her actions while intoxicated, the children of the deceased individual may file a lawsuit against the establishment serving alcohol. In this case, the lawsuit would be brought for the loss of parental consortium.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Parker Waichman has decades of experience representing victims injured by negligence or misconduct. If you or someone you know was injured by someone else’s wrongdoing, you may have valuable legal rights. Our personal injury attorneys offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).