The Dram Shop Act provides that it is “unlawful for any liquor licensee to sell or furnish any liquor or malt or brewed beverage to any person visibly intoxicated, to any insane person, to any minor, to habitual drunkards or to persons of known intemperate habits.” In other words, the statute makes it unlawful for bartenders to sell alcoholic beverages to a person who is visibly intoxicated, declared insane, under the legal drinking age of 21, or a habitual drunk. Most often, this Act arises when a bartender sells drinks to visibly intoxicated persons or underage persons.
Additionally, the person who furnishes these intoxicating drinks in violation of this Act shall be held civilly responsible for any injury that results of such furnishing. It has been decided within this Act that it is not a defense against liability for the bartender to argue that the intoxicated person voluntarily became drunk. The liquor licensees may be held liable to either third persons or to the intoxicated person himself for the resulting injuries from the intoxication.
The burden is on the plaintiff to prove causation between the furnishing or selling of the alcoholic drinks and the injury that resulted. It is necessary to show that he was visibly intoxicated when the defendant served him. If the person was already so drunk before the bartender served him so that the injury would have occurred anyway, then the burden is on the defendant to prove that the injury would have happened even if he had not been negligent in serving this person.
This Act typically comes into play when an intoxicated individual gets into an auto accident with another person or persons, and the victim of the accident (or the victim’s family or estate) brings a civil suit against the intoxicated driver, as well as the place of business of the bartender for their continuing to serve a visibly intoxicated person. However, that is not the only situation where this Act can be brought up in a civil suit. Recently, a jury in Bucks County awarded damages to a bartender who was injured in an auto accident while she herself was the intoxicated driver. This case was brought under the Dram Shop Act because, although the woman was a bartender at the establishment where she was drinking prior to the accident, she was acting as a patron at the bar where she worked. This case is an example of another way that a Dram Shop action can be brought by the person who was the intoxicated driver who caused the accident and was injured as a result.
If you think you may have a possible case under the Drop Shop Act, then you need John Winicov, an experienced personal injury attorney. He will provide aggressive representation and handle your case with the care it deserves.