Who is Sued in a Dram Shop Case?

by | Nov 21, 2023 | Car Accident, Dram Shop Law, DUI/DWI, Personal Injury, Vehicle Accident, Wrongful Death

Dram shop liability refers to the legal responsibility of establishments that serve alcohol to individuals who subsequently cause harm to others due to intoxication. These cases involve complex legal proceedings that hinge upon various factors, including the responsibility of the establishment and the actions of the intoxicated person.

When injuries or death occur as a result of alcohol-related impairment, determining who is responsible and can be sued is an important part of the process of obtaining justice and compensation for the victims. This process is best done with the guidance of a skilled personal injury lawyer who is well versed in dram shop laws, and who has experience with these cases.

Below, the personal injury lawyers at Kherkher Garcia provide information about liability and who is commonly subject to lawsuits in dram shop cases.

Dram Shop Case Information

A dram shop case revolves around the legal liability of businesses that serve alcohol to individuals who cause harm to themselves or others due to extreme intoxication. These cases stem from the concept of dram shops, which historically referred to establishments where alcoholic beverages were sold by the dram, a small unit of measurement. In modern legal terms, dram shop cases hold bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and other businesses accountable for their role in providing alcohol to visibly intoxicated individuals.

Who is Sued in Dram Shop Cases?

In dram shop cases, responsibility is shared between two primary parties: the establishment that serves alcohol and the intoxicated individual. The establishment, which can be a bar, restaurant, liquor store, or similar venue, holds a duty of care to monitor patrons and avoid serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated individuals. Simultaneously, the intoxicated person carries responsibility for their actions while under the influence. Additionally, social hosts at parties or events may also be sued if they provide alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated.

The Intoxicated Person

The primary individual held responsible for their actions in a dram shop case is the intoxicated person. This person is typically sued for any damages caused due to their intoxication, such as injuries, property damage, or wrongful death. They may face legal consequences for their actions, including criminal charges in addition to civil liability.

The Establishment

The establishment that served the alcohol to the intoxicated person can also be sued in a dram shop case. This includes bars, restaurants, liquor stores, or any business that serves or sells alcohol. However, liability on the part of the establishment typically requires proof that they were negligent in serving the alcohol.

Social Hosts

In some jurisdictions, hosts of private events or parties where alcohol is served may also face liability if they provide alcohol to a visibly intoxicated guest who subsequently causes harm. Social host liability, however, varies significantly from state to state and may not apply universally.

Establishing Liability in a Dram Shop Case

Proving liability in a dram shop case can be complex. It requires demonstrating that the establishment breached its duty of care by serving alcohol to an already intoxicated person, which directly led to the harm caused. These cases often involve the consideration of various legal factors, such as duty of care, negligence, causation, and possible defenses like contributory negligence or intervening causes.

  • Duty of Care: Establishments serving alcohol have a duty to act responsibly and avoid serving individuals who are visibly intoxicated. They are expected to monitor patrons’ behavior, identify signs of intoxication, and refrain from over-serving patrons.
  • Proving Negligence: To establish liability in a dram shop case, it must be proven that the establishment breached its duty of care by serving alcohol to an already intoxicated person. This often involves evidence such as witness testimonies, surveillance footage, or receipts indicating excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Causation: It must also be demonstrated that the establishment’s actions in serving alcohol to the intoxicated person directly led to the subsequent harm or injuries. Establishing a causal link between the over-service of alcohol and the resulting damages is crucial in these cases.

Defenses in a Dram Shop Case

Victims in dram shop cases should be aware of defenses that may be presented by the establishments accused of over-serving alcohol. Understanding these defenses is crucial because they can significantly impact the outcome of the case. Awareness empowers victims and their legal representation to anticipate and counter these defenses effectively. Defenses such as contributory negligence, intervening causes, or a lack of evidence regarding the establishment’s negligence can weaken the victim’s case.

  • Contributory Negligence: The defense might argue that the injured party shares some responsibility for their injuries due to their actions or behavior, reducing the liability of the establishment.
  • Intervening Causes: If there are other intervening factors apart from alcohol consumption that contributed significantly to the incident, the establishment might argue that those factors were responsible for the harm, not solely the alcohol they served.
  • Lack of Evidence: The defense may claim a lack of substantial evidence demonstrating that the establishment served alcohol to an already visibly intoxicated person.

By being informed about potential defenses, victims can prepare stronger arguments, gather relevant evidence, and ensure their legal strategy is robust enough to counter these defenses, thus increasing their chances of obtaining fair compensation for the damages caused by the intoxicated individual.

How can a Personal Injury Lawyer help Establish Liability in a Dram Shop Case?

Because establishing liability and who can be sued in a dram shop case can be complicated, it is best to work with a skilled personal injury lawyer. A personal injury lawyer has many resources for establishing liability in a dram shop case. Some of the ways that a lawyer helps establish liability includes:

Legal Expertise and Experience

Personal injury lawyers specializing in dram shop cases have a deep understanding of relevant laws, regulations, and precedents. Their experience allows them to navigate the complexities of these cases effectively.

Investigation and Evidence Gathering

Lawyers can conduct thorough investigations to gather evidence supporting the claim. This might involve obtaining surveillance footage, witness testimonies, credit card receipts showing alcohol purchases, or expert opinions on the establishment’s negligence.

Expert Witnesses

Lawyers can enlist the help of expert witnesses, such as alcohol service experts or medical professionals, to testify regarding the establishment’s failure to adhere to responsible service practices and the effects of alcohol consumption on the individual’s behavior.

Establishing Causation

To prove liability, it’s crucial to establish a direct link between the over-service of alcohol by the establishment and the subsequent harm caused. Lawyers work to demonstrate how the establishment’s actions directly led to the injuries or damages suffered by their client.

Negligence and Duty of Care

Lawyers will aim to prove that the establishment breached its duty of care by serving alcohol to an already intoxicated individual. They may present evidence showing the establishment’s failure to recognize signs of intoxication or ignore guidelines for responsible alcohol service.

Counteracting Defenses

Anticipating and countering defenses presented by the establishment is a vital aspect of the lawyer’s role. They’ll prepare robust arguments and evidence to refute claims of contributory negligence, intervening causes, or lack of establishment negligence.

Have Questions about a Dram Shop Case?

If you have questions about a dram shop case, who can be sued, or your legal rights, contact Kherkher Garcia for a free consultation. Our personal injury lawyers have been helping injury victims for more than 30 years. We are well versed in all manner of personal injury cases and related laws.

Find out how we can help you pursue justice and compensation after an accident with a free consultation. Call us at 713-333-1030, or complete our online form. We are here for you!

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Steve Kherkher

Steve Kherkher

Founding Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Founding Firm Partner Steve Kherkher. Steve has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 30 years. He has won $300 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. He is a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been catastrophically injured.

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