Negligence With The Retail Sale Of Alcohol

When you think about the responsibility that comes with serving alcohol, you would expect there to be laws in place that allow injured people to sue an establishment that serves alcohol if that establishment was irresponsible with its sales. Thankfully, there are laws in place to protect against irresponsible alcohol serving establishments and those laws are called Dram Shop laws.

With Dram Shop laws, a person who was involved in a car accident where they were hit by someone who was driving while intoxicated can sue the bar that served the other driver if the situation meets the right criteria. Dram Shop laws are complicated, so you will need an experienced attorney to help you use these laws if you need to.

Two Types Of Dram Shop Laws

The two types of Dram Shop laws are first-party and third-party laws. In the first-party Dram Shop laws, the person who was intoxicated can sue the bar they were drinking at if it can be proven that the bar served the person past the point of intoxication, or if the person was visibly intoxicated when they entered the establishment and got served anyways. In a third-party case, someone who was injured as the direct result of the negligence of the alcohol serving establishment can sue the establishment. For example, if someone was hit by an intoxicated driver and the situations regarding the driver getting served alcohol are the same as the first-party scenario, then the person who was hit can sue the bar.

In the state of New York, third-party Dram Shop laws are used to help a victim get the compensation they deserve. As long as the intoxicated person was either underage, served while they were visibly drunk, or served to the point where they were visibly drunk, the victim has a case.

Dram Shop Lawsuits Versus Personal Injury Lawsuits

Dram Shop lawsuits, for all intents and purposes, are personal injury lawsuits. Personal injury lawsuits according to, are lawsuits filed because of another person’s carelessness that led to your injuries.

The biggest difference between the two is an extra step involved in filing a Dram Shop lawsuit. A person who intends to file a Dram Shop lawsuit in New York must notify the bar within 60 days of the incident that they intend to take action. After that, the usual statutes of limitations for personal injury lawsuits are put in place.

Visibly Drunk

It is relatively simple to prove that someone was underage at the time of their intoxication, but proving someone was visibly drunk is a little more difficult. In New York State, a person is considered “visibly intoxicated” when they have:

  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of physical coordination
  • Blood shot eyes

It sounds cut and dry, but the hard part is proving in a court of law after months have passed since the incident that the person in question was in that condition when they were served by the alcohol establishment. Short of taking pictures of every customer that is served, alcohol establishments would have no record of something like that. Since the burden of proof is on the plaintiff, these cases can be hard to win.

In New York State, the Dram Shop laws are set up to hold alcohol selling establishments responsible when they serve someone who is underage, visibly drunk, or serving them to the point of being visibly drunk. It is important to remember that Dram Shop laws only apply to the alcohol selling establishment. If you want to sue the intoxicated person as well, that would be a separate personal injury lawsuit.

With the difficulty involved in winning Dram Shop cases and the potential for multiple lawsuits, it is important to hire a very experienced attorney for your case. If you do find yourself the victim of a negligent bar or restaurant, then do not hesitate to use the Dram Shop laws to protect your rights.

Author Bio:

Laurence Banville. Esq is the managing partner and face of Banville Law. Laurence is licensed to practice law in the state of New York. Originally from Ireland, Banville moved to the United States of America where he worked at law firms, refining his litigation and brief writing crafts. He is also the recipient of the Irish Legal 100 and the Top 40 Under 40 awards.