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Dram Shop Liability

Dram shop liability or liquor liability as some call it involves giving or serving alcohol to a person who then injures a third party as a direct result of the impairment from the alcohol.

 

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The term "dram" is an American spelling that historically means a weight, or a small unit of liquid in which alcohol is sold. In the 1700's, English taverns sold gin by the spoonful and this was called a dram (drachm).

Dram shop liability refers to the responsibility of the tavern, restaurant or other business (or social host) that sells or gives the alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person or a minor who then causes harm to another. Dram shop liability laws vary widely by state in regards to serving alcohol to an intoxicated person. For instance, ten states such as Nevada have no dram shop liability laws at all.

Others states such as Illinois, are on the more strict end of the spectrum and impose comparative negligence upon the chain of vendors who sold an intoxicated person a beverage during a night of drinking, including those who may have just sold the first beverage. Besides these two extremes, most states hold accountable the retailers who know or should have known they are selling alcohol to obviously intoxicated people or minors.

Critics of dram shop liability say that the laws eliminate personal responsibility on the part of the patron who is intoxicated and causes an injurious act to another. Proponents, such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) have stated the laws are necessary in order to protect the public at large not only from those who are publicly intoxicated but also from those who serve them.

In 1999, in a New Jersey court, a $135 million verdict was awarded in the Antonia Verni case, who was a six-year old who was paralyzed when a drunk driver, who had been served 14 beers at a New York Giants football game, drove home and accidently hit Verni. Verni's family sued the National Football League, the New York Giants, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and the concessionaires who were found liable according to the dram shop laws of varying degrees of comparative negligence. Since this point, the State of New Jersey, has tightened up its dram shop liability laws and expanded upon the duties of the servers of alcohol.

Serving alcohol to minors is illegal in all 50 states and so in some states sellers may be held responsible not only when an intoxicated minor, that they served, hurts a third party, but when they injure themselves as well.

Because the dram shop liability laws vary so wide from state-to-state it is important to check with a personal injury lawyer versed in this area of the law to see if you may have a valid case. It is important to act quickly since statute of limitations for filing lawsuits are typically short in such cases and delay may mean the difference between receiving entitled compensation and receiving no compensation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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