The term “Dram Shop” originates from 18th century English establishments that sold alcohol, specifically gin, by the spoonful, which was called a “dram.” Since, this term can generally be applied to any businesses that sell alcohol.
“Dram Shop” Laws are civil laws that are usually called on to help the victims of DUIs, or their families to sue the establishments that provided the alcohol in the first place. “Dram Shops” are a specific set of laws that cater to the sale of alcohol; thus, any establishment that sells alcohol, not just bars or pubs or nightclubs, could potentially deal with dram shop law liability.
Thirty states currently have dram shop liability laws, though 22 of those limit liability to cases where the establishment sold or served alcohol to an obviously intoxicated individual or an individual under the legal drinking age.
It has been the primary legal resource for Mother’s Against Drunk Driving in suing drunk drivers and the vendors that sold them alcohol, citing that after developing and utilizing dram laws, states such as Texas saw a decrease in the number of fatal automobile accidents.
Liability for Dram Shop cases rests in the establishment’s serving a patron too much alcohol.
There are two divisions of Dram Shop cases, though since many states don’t recognize it, the first is rarely used. In these “first party” cases, the consumer of alcohol sues the establishment for providing them with too much to drink. Most states reject these on the grounds that the patron should be responsible for their own consumption, though people under the drinking age are typically free to pursue these types of cases. The “third party” Dram Shop cases are the ones referred to before: cases in which a third party sues the drunk driver, and the establishment for harm. Cases of this kind can be based on negligence, recklessness or intentional conduct.
All considering suing should note: in many cases states severely limit liability to cases of intentional conduct, only finding the establishment liable when they served to minors or alcoholics. If the plaintiff wins the civil suit against both the person charged with the DUI and the alcohol vendor, the damages will be split between the two parties.
If you are considering suing using Dram Shop laws, your best course of action would be to consult an experienced lawyer who can help you initially determine whether or not the damages won for injuries would be worth the cost of filing a lawsuit.