Dram Shop Cases

If you are injured by an intoxicated person, you have the right to hold them personally liable for your injuries and damages, but under dram shop laws, you may also be able to hold the business or individual who served the drinks liable as well.

The Dram Shop Act

The Dram Shop Act refers to a body of laws governing bars, taverns, liquor stores, and other establishments that sell alcoholic beverages. The exact laws vary based on your area, and in Massachusetts, the law does not specifically state anything about bringing civil claims against alcohol vendors or dram shops. But the law does prohibit vendors from serving alcohol to minors and to people who are already intoxicated, and in the past, there have been cases where the courts have held liquor vendors liable for injuries caused by the patrons they have served.

Social Host Liability

In some states, you can bring suits against liquor vendors as well as social hosts. Typically, the phrase social host refers to people who are hosting events in their home where alcohol is served. To explain, imagine someone becomes intoxicated at another person’s home during a holiday party. The intoxicated person hits a pedestrian and injures them. The pedestrian can bring a lawsuit against the intoxicated individual and may also be able to bring a case against the social host if the intoxicated person was a minor and the host was of legal drinking age.

Requirements for Civil Suits

To bring a civil case against someone, you need to establish a few elements. The defendant must have been negligent, and they must have some duty of care toward you. For instance, a property owner has a duty to keep their premises relatively safe, and if they are negligent in that duty, you can bring a suit against them. Similarly, a dram shop owner or employee has the duty to serve alcohol carefully. If they continue to serve alcohol to someone who is clearly intoxicated, they are in breach of that duty, and that may constitute negligence.

In that same vein, if a dram shop employee serves an excessive number of alcoholic drinks to an individual in a short period of time, they can also be held liable — although the person may not have appeared intoxicated when they were ordering, the owner or employee should realize that serving that much alcohol that quickly can lead to a dangerous situation. Additionally, the plaintiff must also show that they were injured due to the defendant’s negligence, and the plaintiff must also show that they suffered damages.

Damages in Dram Shop Cases

The damages in a dram shop case may include elements such as the following:

  • Medical bills directly related to the injury
  • Rehabilitation, occupational therapy, chiropractic care, or other medical treatment needed to facilitate recovery
  • Anticipated future medical costs
  • Hiring help around the home if the injured party is unable to perform routine tasks
  • Lost wages
  • Lost future income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Any other damages related to the injury

First Party Dram Shop Cases

Typically, dram shop cases involve a plaintiff who was injured by an intoxicated person, but sometimes, intoxicated people may try to bring suits against the dram shop if they were personally injured. For instance, if someone goes to a liquor store and buys alcohol when they are severely intoxicated, and they end up falling and hurting themselves, they may want to bring a lawsuit against the dram shop. This is called a first party case, and Massachusetts law prohibits this practice. However, there can be exceptions, particularly in cases involving minors. If you’re wondering whether or not you can bring a lawsuit forward, you should contact us directly today.

Defenses in Dram Shop Lawsuits

To establish liability in a dram shop lawsuit, your lawyer must prove to the courts that the establishment served liquor to someone who was a minor, who was obviously intoxicated, or who was likely to become dangerously intoxicated due to the amount of alcohol served. To safeguard its interests, the dram shop will try to fight the case by mounting a defense. Normally, the defenses that come into play include the following: denying that the individual was impaired when they ordered the drinks, proving that the individual never bought alcohol from their establishment, or showing that there was no way for the server to know that the drinker was intoxicated.

Additionally, some dram shops try to minimize their liability by taking steps before they serve an intoxicated person. This can include sending bartenders and serving staff to education courses, encouraging customers not to become intoxicated, and calling taxis or making sure patrons have designated drivers. However, if a bar or liquor store has taken all these steps and their patron has still caused damages to another party, they may still be liable. Trying to avoid the situation does not erase liability if someone does get hurt.

Getting Help After Suffering an Injury from an Intoxicated Person

If you or a loved one has been hurt or killed due to an intoxicated person, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. However, many individuals don’t have the insurance to cover a large claim. To protect your financial interests, you should also explore the possibility of bringing a lawsuit against the business who served or sold the alcohol.

To learn more, contact us today. At Tinti, Quinn, Grover, and Frey, we have experience helping people with a range of different personal injury cases, and we may be able to help you. We can offer you a free case evaluation to talk about your rights and help you decide the best steps to take. You deserve justice, and when you’re dealing with medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or other damages, a personal injury lawsuit is often the best course of action.