Liquor Liability

Ensuring bars and restaurants don’t serve alcohol to intoxicated patrons can eliminate unnecessary harm to the both the patron and other people in the community.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Code states that it is unlawful for any establishment holding a liquor license to serve alcoholic beverages to a minor or visibly intoxicated person. Failure to follow the Liquor Code can result in liability for a bar, restaurant, or tavern. Though liquor liability can be difficult to prove, our experienced team of professional trial lawyers has years of experience and innovative methods of building a case that set us apart from other attorneys in Central Pennsylvania.

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Types of Liquor Liability Cases

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Liquor Liability?

Liquor liability and dram shop laws are in essence the same thing. The Pennsylvania Liquor Code states that it is unlawful for any establishment holding a liquor license to serve or distribute alcoholic beverages to a minor or a visibly intoxicated person. Dram shop is a legal term that applies to bars, taverns, pubs, and similar venues where alcoholic beverages are served. The law is intended to protect the community from customers being over-served and either injuring themselves or others while intoxicated, whether it is behind the wheel of a car, in a fight with another individual, or any other harm caused by their alcohol-impaired state. Failure to follow the liquor laws can result in liability for a bar, restaurant, or tavern.

How can it be proven that a visibly intoxicated person was over served?

The key term is “visibly intoxicated”. One of the difficulties is that intoxication can manifest itself differently in different individuals. There are some obvious signs such as slurred speech and difficulty walking. The signs of intoxication must be visible to the server when the person orders the drinks. A person may be involved in a vehicle crash after leaving an establishment but if they were not visibly intoxicated at the time they were served, liquor laws would not apply. Experienced attorneys are able to help in collecting evidence, such as video surveillance and eye witness testimony, to help prove that a patron was over served. What is required in such cases is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt but rather whether it was more likely than not that a visibly intoxicated person was served alcohol. The blood alcohol level alone of the intoxicated individual at the time of the crash may not be sufficient to prove the patron was visibly intoxicated when served their drink.

What if someone else buys the drinks?

The liquor laws only apply when a direct sale of alcohol is made to an intoxicated individual. If a sober person purchases drinks to take back to their table of friends and some people at the table are intoxicated, the bartender has no way of knowing the condition of the rest of the party at the table and sold alcohol to a sober person. If someone at that table ends up in a car crash, the establishment is not held responsible.

Why do dram shop laws exist?

Proponents of dram shop laws argue that these laws reduce alcohol-related car crashes by increasing public awareness of the effects of over-serving alcohol and decreasing excessive and illegal alcohol consumption. The goal is to give establishments that serve and sell alcohol an incentive to do so responsibly and to thoroughly verify that patron are of legal drinking age. Before dram shop laws, alcoholic beverage sellers were not legally responsible for a plaintiff’s injuries. When a drunk driver causes an accident, the results are often catastrophic. Since alcohol intake is linked with inhibited judgment and delayed reactions, a drunk driver who causes a crash may be traveling at a higher speed than a driver who is more alert. As such, the policy limits on an automobile insurance policy may not be adequate to fully compensate a victim for the injuries that he or she suffers. Dram shop liability allows a victim to pursue compensation from a business to receive compensation for the injuries that he or she has suffered.

What happens to establishments sued for over serving a customer?

There are a variety of outcomes for an establishment that over serves a customer including being legally and financially held responsible for its actions. An outcome that is almost certain is that safety protocols will be examined and adjusted to help prevent future incidents.

Do businesses have liquor liability insurance?

Liquor liability insurance policies are purchased by businesses that manufacture, serve, or sell alcohol. These policies provide coverage for legal or medical fees associated with over serving a visibly intoxicated person.

When should a liquor liability attorney be contacted?

It is important that a victim speak immediately to a personal injury lawyer to preserve his or her rights (or the rights of a loved one) if he or she has been the victim of a drunk driving crash or harmed by a visibly intoxicated person. Early investigation and preservation of key evidence offers higher likelihood of proving that a person was over served by an establishment.

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Case Study

Liquor Liability

In this case, we helped secure a financial settlement for the family of a young woman who was tragically killed by a drunk driver.

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