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Dram Shop Laws

In the United States, a dram shop was a bar or tavern that sold alcoholic beverages by the dram, or one-eighth of an ounce of liquid. In 18th century England, gin was sold by the “dram.” Dram shop laws are statutes currently in 43 states that make businesses that serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person liable for any injuries caused by that person.

Dram Shop Laws

Dram shop laws are intended to protect the public from the dangers that occur from selling alcohol to minors and intoxicated individual who may then potentially operate a motor vehicle. While the laws vary among the states, dram shop laws frequently allow DUI victims or their families to sue the establishment or vendor for monetary damages. One 1999 case in New Jersey awarded $135 million dollars to a family of girl who was paralyzed by a drunk driver. The driver in question had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit after leaving a New York Giants football game. The concessionaire at Giants Stadium shared liability for the girl’s injuries.

Frequently, proving liability under dram shop laws is difficult. Under the Illinois Dramshop Act, plaintiffs must prove the sale of alcohol to the patron, injuries sustained as a result of the patron’s actions, proximate cause between the sale of alcohol and the patron’s intoxication, and that intoxication was at least one of the causes of third-party damages. Many states have exact wording of the law to specifically spell out liability issues.

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