What's the Problem?
When a drunk driver causes an accident, he or she is typically liable for any injuries or deaths that occur as a result. For most injured victims, the first step in recovering compensation is to file a lawsuit against the intoxicated driver, but there may be other parties who could share in the liability. In fact, there are situations in which bars, restaurants, or other establishments could be held responsible for over-serving the drunk driver prior to the crash.
What is Dram Shop Law?
A dram shop is a bar, tavern or similar business where alcoholic beverages are sold. Dram shop law is a law that governs lawsuits over injuries caused by people who bought alcoholic drinks at such an establishment. These cases are brought after one of the businesses' patrons becomes intoxicated and gets into an accident, causing an injury. For example, if you got hit by a drunk driver and can prove that the driver got drunk at a bar, you may have a dram shop lawsuit against that establishment.
Types of Dram Shop Cases
There are 2 main types of dram shop cases:
- First-Party Dram Shop Lawsuit - Occurs when the injured plaintiff is the person who was sold the alcoholic beverages. First-party dram shop lawsuits are difficult to win because most juries tend to think that people should be responsible for their own actions; however, cases involving minors have a greater chance in juries holding the restaurant or bar responsible.
- Third-Party Dram Shop Lawsuit - Occurs when the injured person is someone other than the drunk person. For example, if you get hit by a drunk driver, and the driver got drunk at a bar, you could potentially have a third-party dram shop case against that establishment. In most cases, a plaintiff in a third-party dram shop case need only prove that the defendant bar was negligent. Proving negligence essentially amounts to proving that the bartenders/servers continued to serve a patron whom they knew was intoxicated.
Dram Shop Act
The Dram Shop Act stipulates that minors may sue businesses for any injuries they incurred from the sale of alcohol if they were intoxicated at the time of the sale.
$10.5 Million Awarded in Dallas Strip Club Death
A Dallas jury in Feb. 2013 awarded $10.5 million to the family of a woman who was killed when she was run over outside a Dallas topless club in 2011, according to CBS DFW . The victim, 23-year-old Kasey McKenzie, was crushed under the wheels of a lifted Ford F-250 driven by Eric Brent Crutchfield, a patron who had been drinking heavily at the Spearmint Rhino Gentlemen’s Club near Walnut Hill Lane and the Stemmons Freeway. The suit alleged that employees of the Spearmint Rhino continued to serve drinks to Crutchfield for many hours, “even though it was or should have been apparent … that Crutchfield was intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others.”
Illinois Judge Awards $37.5 Million in Dram Shop Liability Case
A judge in St. Clair County, Illinois, awarded a man $37.5 million in damages over a 2010 crash that claimed the life of his wife and sent him to the hospital for 6 months. The couple, who worked as a long-haul trucking team, were driving westbound on Interstate 64 on the morning of Nov. 17, 2010, when a drunk driver heading east in the westbound lanes crashed into the couple’s truck. The truck went down into the median, fell to its side, and caught fire. The woman died at the scene while the man suffered severe burns and was left totally disabled.
Reports indicated that the drunk driver had spent the evening at a strip club in St. Louis, where he became intoxicated. Following a bench trial, Judge Vincent Lopinot found that the club had continued to serve the man, even after he had become visibly intoxicated.
Related Article: Truck Accident Attorney
$275,000 Awarded in Bar Overserving Case
Is one of the first case to go to trial under Connecticut's new Dram Shop Law, a man was awarded more than $275,000 in damages for injuries he suffered in a car accident that occurred in April 2007. According to the lawsuit, the man was a passenger in a vehicle being driven by his intoxicated girlfriend. She was traveling too fast and lost control of the vehicle, crashing into a tree.
The man suffered a fracture of 2 of the vertebrae in his neck, which required him to wear a hard neck brace for months. He was subsequently required to undergo extensive therapy and treatment for approximately 18 months, at which point he was released with an 8% disability to his neck.
Confidential Settlement Reached in Dram Shop Case Against Texas Bar
An undisclosed settlement has been reached against Tejano Bar, LLC d/b/a Coyotes Bar, over a deadly car crash that occurred in March 2017. According to the lawsuit, Christine Rocio was sold or served alcoholic beverages for over 6 hours after it was apparent to Coyotes Bar and their employees that she was obviously intoxicated to the extent that she presented a clear danger to herself and others.
Just after the bar closed at 2:00 a.m., Rocio was driving westbound on the 5600 block of West Baker Road in Baytown, Texas, when she struck a curb, causing her vehicle to go off the roadway and strike a culvert, resulting in her vehicle flipping on its left side and finally coming to a stop. Rocio was subsequently declared dead as a result of multiple blunt force injuries she sustained in the fatal crash.
Evidence in Dram Shop Cases
Dram shop laws specify certain types of evidence as being particularly significant with respect to the defendant establishment's liability. Examples of evidence that the restaurant or bar was negligent may include:
- The establishment served someone without requesting proof of age
- The establishment served a person who appeared to be intoxicated
- The establishment served someone after closing time
- The establishment served someone who would likely become intoxicated as a result of the amount that was served to that person
Can Bartenders Be Held Liable?
Dram shop laws attribute liability to businesses which are responsible for serving alcohol to people who injure others in drunk driving accidents. If the business which provided alcohol is found to be at fault for damages, the establishment would be liable rather than an individual bartender.
Related Article: What Is Vicarious Liability In Tort Law?
Do I Qualify for Compensation?
To be successful in a dram shop liability case, the injured party must show that the establishment knew -- or should have known -- that the customer in question was already intoxicated but continued to serve the individual anyway.
Do I Have a Dram Shop Lawsuit?
The Personal Injury & Accidents Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Dram Shop Lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new injury and death cases in all 50 states.
If you or another loved one was injured, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.