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Dram Shop & Social Host Liability Law

Posted by Christopher Keller | Feb 11, 2020 | 0 Comments

When you are a victim of a drunk driving accident, you would expect to have your damages covered by the drunk driver's insurance. However, sometimes the person responsible does not have enough coverage or any insurance at all to compensate you for your injuries. If this is the case for you or a loved one, you may need to consider other avenues of compensation. Though alcohol-related crashes are on a slight decline for the state of Florida, we have still suffered greatly from them. Between the years of 2015-2017, Florida had a yearly average of 5,290 alcohol-related crashes. Unfortunately, there is a decent chance that you or someone you know will experience a similar accident. There is nothing you can do to take back the accident, but there are steps you can take to better your recovery. In some very specific cases, you may be able to file a claim against a social host or commercial establishment if they served alcohol to the person who caused the accident, and that person was a minor or someone who is considered to be addicted to alcohol. Such instances are represented in Florida state law under Dram Shop and Social Host Liability. 

What is the Difference Between a Dram Shop and a Social Host?

A dram shop is any commercial establishment that is licensed to sell alcohol to those of legal drinking age. The term dram refers to a measured amount of liquid and has often been used in reference to alcoholic liquids specifically. For this reason, a bar, tavern, or club can be referred to as a dram shop. However, a dram shop can also be a term applied to restaurants that serve alcohol. 

A social host is basically a private party at home. If you go to a friend's house for a dinner or birthday party in their home, you are attending a function with a social host. There is no licensed-serving involved or required in one's home. 

So, What is the Dram Shop and Social Host Liability Law?

Under Florida Statute 768.125, it states a third-party that sells (dram shop) or provides (social host) alcohol to a person of legal drinking age who later causes an accident cannot be held responsible for the accident or consequent injuries. Dram shops and social hosts are also not responsible for continuing to serve alcohol to drunk patrons. 

  • However, there are two very important exceptions to this law:
  1. Minors
    1. Dram shops can be held liable if they knowingly serve alcohol to a minor who later causes an accident.
    2. Social hosts can be held liable if they knowingly serve alcohol to a minor who later causes an accident. 
  2. Alcoholics:
    1. Only dram shops can be held liable if they knowingly serve someone who is addicted to alcohol that later causes an accident.

Why is Dram Shop & Social Host Liability Law So Tricky?

It all comes down to willful behavior. In order to be liable, the dram shop or social host would have had to knowingly and willfully serve alcohol to a minor or alcoholic. This can also include knowingly selling alcohol to an adult that is going to give the alcohol to a minor. If you are going to file a claim against a third-party in this manner, it is crucial that you have evidence to prove the act was willful. This law does not cover mere negligence, so you must be able to show the actions were meaningful and made with the knowledge of either an illegal age or an addiction to alcohol. 

What are the Consequences for Breaking this Law?

It varies case by case, but there are some general expectations in terms of punishment. For the dram shops or vendors, they can expect a fine of some sort and the loss of their liquor license. A subsequent punishment would be the loss of business without being able to readily serve alcohol. For the private social host, he or she runs the risk of having a driver's license suspended. 

What are My Next Steps in Filing a Claim?

Due to the scope of liability being so narrow for dram shop and social host liability claims, you should contact a trusted attorney at Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh today. If you or a loved one have been a victim of a car accident caused by willful serving of a dram shop or social host, contact us to start your civil injury claim. We will walk you through the process from beginning to end as we assist you in the recovery of the compensation you are owed. Depending on your injuries, you may be entitled to financial coverage of your medical bills, medications, therapy, and time lost at work. Gather as much evidence of the wrongdoing as you can, and contact us now

About the Author

Christopher Keller

Christopher J. Keller is an experienced plaintiff's personal injury attorney.  He concentrates his practice in the areas of Wrongful Death, Auto, Truck, Train & Motorcycle Accidents and Premises Liability.  Before founding Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh, PLLC, Mr. Keller practiced personal injury ...

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