Carelessness with alcohol has legal consequences, and not just for the drinkers themselves. Pennsylvania allows victims of drunk drivers (and other destruction caused by drunk people) to collect from those who served the alcohol—if the drunk person was visibly intoxicated when he or she was served alcohol. In the courts, this has been extended to cover those who serve liquor in a way that breaks our liquor laws—service to minors, serving after hours and serving without a license. In short, if you have a legal duty to refuse alcohol to someone and you give it to that person anyway, you may be held responsible for the results.
In order to successfully sue under the dram shop law, you must be able to prove that:
- An employee or "agent" of the party you're suing served alcohol to someone at a time that that person was visibly intoxicated. Whether someone is "visibly intoxicated" depends not on blood-alcohol content or number or drinks, but rather, apparent signs of intoxication like bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and staggering. In some cases, you may be able to prove visible intoxication with strong circumstantial evidence, like blood-alcohol measures or a guilty plea to a DUI; and
- The business or host's decision to serve alcohol to the visibly intoxicated person directly led to your injuries.
If the drunk driver was a minor, a social host—the host of a private party or social club—can be held responsible under the dram shop law. This applies to the minors themselves as well as anyone else they may have injured. Minors who injure themselves after drinking can sue the establishment or host that illegally provided that alcohol, if that establishment or host knowingly furnished so much alcohol that the minor became intoxicated and the host was not itself a minor. They must be able to show that:
- The host intended to give, agree to give or promote giving alcohol to the minor.
- The host actually did give, agree to give or promote giving alcohol to the minor.
- The host's actions were a substantial contributor to the minor getting alcohol.
Minors who sue a host for helping to cause their injuries may not be able to recover as much money as someone who had not been drinking at all, because they share some of the fault for their own injuries.
If you or someone you care about has been injured by someone else's carelessness around alcohol, we can help. Click here to contact us for a free case evaluation.