Dram Shop Laws

Dram Shop Laws and Liability

Dram shop laws and liability are an important part of drunk driving law. These laws hold alcohol-selling establishments responsible for the actions of intoxicated patrons, and social hosts may also be liable for drunk driving. While the laws vary from state to state, 43 states have adopted some form of dram shop law. In addition to dram shops, individual states have also passed wide-ranging drunk driving laws.

Dram Shop Liability

What is dram shop liability? Simply put, it is the liability of a bar or tavern that sells alcohol and provides services for intoxicated customers. This law is state-specific and is one of the ways the government is preventing drunk driving accidents. Breakstone, White & Gluck mentioned that many people mistakenly believe that federal laws apply to all states, but they do not. Dram shop liability laws protect the rights of people harmed by excessive alcohol consumption.

Social Host Liability

Dram shop law is an area of the law that applies to businesses that serve alcohol. It prevents businesses from serving alcohol to underage or intoxicated people. In addition, the law states that a social host must know that their guest is drunk and that they are responsible for their behavior. The law also applies to the sale of drugs and alcohol. Social host liability is a legal concept applied to businesses since the 19th century.

Social host liability law is similar to dram shop law and allows hosts to be held liable for damages that intoxicated guests cause. While many states specifically address serving alcohol to minors, other states have more comprehensive social host liability laws that apply to a wider range of situations. To make a social host liability claim, a plaintiff must prove that the host knowingly served the alcohol and that they knew their guest was intoxicated.


While Kentucky’s dram shop liability laws have been interpreted to be broadly applicable, these limits are hardly infallible. First-party dram shop liability cases tend to be tough to win in court, and there are many exceptions to this general rule. For example, a bar may be responsible for a drunken patron’s actions if they were underage. However, the statute of limitations for such cases is generally one year.

In addition to the above limitations, the alcohol-related laws in every state are different. Although there are similarities, the most significant difference is in the definition of “intoxicated” in each state. For example, Texas is a state where dram shops are liable for injuries or property damage caused by an intoxicated customer. However, Texas bars are subject to limits of comparative negligence, which means that if the driver was at least 51% responsible for the accident, the bar or restaurant is generally free of liability.


Several defenses may be available against dram shop’s liability actions. These include complicity and provocation. Complicity defenses typically bar an injured person from bringing an action; provocation defenses generally bar a claim if the defendant served alcohol to an intoxicated patron or if the party was organized by someone underage. Unfortunately, provocation defenses are not available in all states.

Under California’s “Dram Shop Act,” certain types of stores and restaurants are liable if they serve alcohol to an intoxicated minor. In California, this may result in criminal and civil liability. Therefore, you may be liable if you are a store or restaurant owner and serve alcohol to a minor who is clearly intoxicated. This can be especially problematic if your business sells alcohol to minors.

Limitations In Maryland

There are some limits to the liability for alcohol sellers in Maryland, and one of these limits is the dram shop doctrine. The dram shop doctrine applies when the establishment sells alcohol to a minor who then was underage. This is a common defense for businesses that serve alcohol. But the dram shop doctrine can be difficult to prove. The Maryland State Legislature has not passed any dram shop laws since the 1920s, which means that the establishment is partially responsible for the drunken patron’s actions.

The dram shop statute varies greatly between states. Dram shop statutes generally have shorter limitations of action than general negligence statutes. For this reason, plaintiffs should carefully review their state statutes to determine which ones apply to them. In some states, plaintiffs must file lawsuits within six months, while others have six months. It is important to consult an attorney in Maryland with experience in this area of law, as their advice can help you make the best decision about which statutes and regulations to use.

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