If you are a bar or restaurant owner, you probably love the holidays as much as, if not more than, your customers. Spreading the cheer is part of your business model, but with heightened rates of DUIs across the nation as the year comes to a close, you must stay alert for intoxicated patrons amongst the celebrations.
With nowhere else to go or buy liquor (as most businesses shut down on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve), your customers stay longer, spend more money and enjoy an unprecedented number of drink rounds with friends and family more frequently during the holiday season. However, should even one of your patrons leave the premise and endanger themselves or others, you could lose a lot more than your holiday profits.
10 important questions and answers regarding dram shop laws:
1. What is a “Dram Shop?”
2. What is a “Social Host?”
Someone who serves alcohol at their private residence or non-commercial event can be considered a social host.
- In many states, simply allowing the consumption of alcohol qualifies someone as a social host. *2
3. What are Dram Shop Laws vs. Social Host Laws?
- Dram shop laws are case laws which hold licensed businesses that serve alcohol liable for any damages or injury caused by a drunken patron.
- Social host liability relates to the noncommercial distribution of alcohol to an adult or minor.
Basically, no matter where a drunk driver leaves from, if the court can prove someone became over intoxicated outside of their own residence and later caused harm to themselves or others, whoever served the booze can be held responsible. *1
4. What are “Tort Laws?”
Simply put, a “tort” is a wrongdoing.
Both dram shop and social host liability civil case types fall under tort law.
5. When do Tort Cases Become Viable?
Loss must occur to one or more victim to have a civil tort case.
For example: If Sally Sangria drives away from your bar and hits another vehicle or pedestrian, any damages caused by Sangria are claimable losses for the victim(s) and your business is suddenly in jeopardy of being held liable.
However, there would be no case against Sangria, or your establishment, if she gets home safely and without causing damages to any persons or property while intoxicated. The easiest way to accomplish that is to keep her from ever getting behind the wheel drunk to begin with.
6. What is the Difference Between First and Third-Party Dram Shop Lawsuits?
- A first-party dram shop liability applies to any case where the injured person filing the suit is the intoxicated person that caused the accident or injury.
These cases are hard to win Wholesale Jerseys and many states outright ban them.
- Third-party dram shop cases occur when the person filing suit was harmed by a separate intoxicated individual.
As the injuries were inflicted upon someone not at fault for over consumption, these cases are much more likely to be won in court. *4
7. Do Dram Shop Laws Work?
Yes. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), dram shop laws are effective because it forces servers to be more conscientious of customers’ level of intoxication.
“ Texas experienced a 6.5 percent decrease in single vehicle nighttime crashes resulting in injury immediately after [the first] liability case was filed in 1983, and an additional 5.3 percent decrease after another case was filed in 1984. In 2001, researchers found a 5.8 percent decrease in fatal crashes from dram shop liability laws.” — MADD
8. Where are Dram Shop Laws in Effect?
Dram shop laws exist in 35 states, but technicalities differ heavily state to state.
- For varying reasons, states like Michigan, Texas and Georgia have what are called “limited” dram shop laws. For example, in Michigan, a victim maintains the right to sue a commercial business for over serving a customer who then injured them, but only if the prosecution names that individual in court along with the establishment and bring charges against them as well.
From “Every State’s Dram Shop Law Explained” Infographic (source)
- Despite their demonstrated effectiveness, seven states still have zero form of dram shop laws: Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas, Louisiana, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.
To see your state’s specific legislature, check out this comprehensive resource from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
9. What Evidence is Necessary for Dram Shop Lawsuits to be Successful?
Obvious intoxication must be proven.
10. How do you Prove “Obvious Intoxication?”
- Direct Evidence:
This includes credible eyewitness testimonials from bar patrons, police reports and recorded video evidence of an over-served patron. Direct evidence is the most indisputable way to prove obvious intoxication.
- Circumstantial Evidence:
This is curated by multiple pieces of inference-based evidence that paints the picture of what actually happened the day or night in question.
- Recorded Evidence of the Amount of Alcohol Ingested:
This includes receipts, credit card statements or any other hard evidence that documents just how much alcohol a person had been served.
- The TABC Blood-Alcohol Chart:
Something that any TABC certified server has seen, this chart is a useful tool for estimating how intoxicated a male or female may be based on approximate weight and number of drinks consumed.
This wholesale nfl jerseys resource can be used against servers, as evidence that they should have known a customer was too intoxicated.
- Toxicology Reports:
Recorded BAC levels at a crash site, blood tests taken at police stations and testimonials from experts in toxicology may be used to prove an impaired person was above the legal BAC limit to drive.
- Social Media:
In the 21st century, even a customer’s selfie can come back to bite businesses in the butt.
If a customer posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social WEEK media site with content that clearly demonstrates over intoxication, that evidence can be used in court against licensed liquor providers to prove a customer was obviously intoxicated.*4
These laws are complicated and come with detrimental consequences. In order to avoid lawsuits that can cost you (and your insurance provider) millions of dollars, it’s imperative that your establishment helps intoxicated patrons find a safe ride home regardless of their budget, distance or cognitive state.
There is a multitude of ridesharing, ride-hailing and transportation apps in every state that will help drunk customers get home safely. It’s up to you to make sure your customers are aware of all their options and ensure they utilize them versus getting behind the wheel drunk.
HERO offers a solution to this problem, aggregating all available transportation options in your patrons’ hands instantly, making it easy for even the most intoxicated of partygoers to find the cheapest, most convenient ride home. To sign up your bar or restaurant for HERO and incentivize your patrons to be safe after drinking, contact us here.