What is Dram Shop Liability?

compensation,Drunk Driving Accidents | June 29, 2022

When most people think of drunk driving accidents, they think of liability falling squarely on the impaired driver. However, there are times when other parties can be held responsible for a drunk driver’s actions. This can include servers, store owners, and any other person who supplies alcohol to the individual in question. Here, we want to discuss dram shop laws and examine how individuals may be able to recover compensation from parties other than an impaired driver.

What is Dram Shop Liability?

Refresher on Dram Shop Laws in California

At Rosenthal Law, we have previously reviewed California’s dram shop laws. These are laws that seek to hold alcohol vendors accountable if they provide beverages to individuals who are clearly intoxicated or are underage, if the individuals they serve go on to cause property damage, personal injury, or a fatality. California legislators have made it challenging for dram shop cases to proceed.

The Civil Code in California states that furnishing alcohol is not the primary cause of injuries resulting from a person’s intoxication. The law makes a point to state that it is the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted on others. Essentially, state law has made it nearly impossible for injury victims or families of those who have been killed to hold social hosts, restaurants, bars, and others who serve alcohol accountable for their actions, even if they serve an obviously intoxicated person.

Proving Liability Under California’s Dram Shop Laws

There are exceptions to the dram shop laws in California where individuals other than an intoxicated person could be held responsible.

  1. The first exception written into state law applies to parents, guardians, and other adults who knowingly supply alcohol to an individual under the age of 21 inside their own residence. If this occurs, the parent, guardian, or other social host could be held responsible for the actions of the minor if they (the minor) cause injuries or a fatality as a result of their intoxication. Additionally, the social host could be held responsible for any injuries the underage person sustains themselves if they are harmed as a result of their own intoxication.
  2. Another exception written into California’s dram shop laws applies to businesses that sell, provide, or serve alcohol to a person under the age of 21 who is obviously intoxicated. We understand that this is similar to the first exception, but this revolves around places other than a residence. For example, this could apply to bars, liquor stores, convenience stores, gas stations, restaurants, etc.

Determining liability in these situations can be challenging. If you or somebody you care about has been injured as a result of the intoxication of another individual, we encourage you to work with a skilled Sacramento drunk driving accident attorney who has extensive experience handling these claims. Your lawyer will conduct a complete investigation into the incident and examine all avenues of liability, including the two dram shop exceptions mentioned above.

Even if you think you have a claim against an individual other than the intoxicated person, there will need to be an extensive evidence-gathering process in place. It can be challenging to prove that a parent or guardian or a business employee knowingly served alcohol to a person under the age of 21. A personal injury attorney will work diligently to gather video surveillance footage, statements from eyewitnesses, and other evidence that can help your case.