Dram shop laws make it possible to hold bar owners and servers accountable and also financially liable if a customer becomes obviously intoxicated on their premises and subsequently injures someone by driving drunk. One of the main purposes of dram shop legislation is to encourage responsible serving practices by holding vendors accountable for serving those who are visibly intoxicated.
As of June 14th, 2013, thirty states had laws that allowed licensed establishments including bars, restaurants, and liquor stores to be held liable for selling or serving alcohol to someone who later causes injury or death as a result of their intoxication. Twenty-two of those states limited the liability to cases where the liquor was sold to an obviously intoxicated person, or someone under the state’s legal drinking age. Eight states had no dram shop laws at all.
Dram Shop Lawsuits
Dram shop lawsuits in Rhode Island are primarily made up of third-party dram shop cases – when the injured person is someone other than the drunken person. An example of this would be the claim a plaintiff would potentially have against a bar that provided drinks to a person they knew or reasonably should have known was drunk, who then drove drunk and caused injury.
Ultimately, “dram shop liability” refers to the responsibility of a tavern, restaurant or other business that over sells alcohol to its customers who then cause harm to another, or in the case of minors, themselves.