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Dram Shop Liability

Dram shop liability, also sometimes referred to as liquor liability, is a set of laws that govern the responsibility of bars, restaurants, taverns, and social hosts in furnishing and selling alcohol illegally, whether to minors or visibly intoxicated individuals. In some cases, those who serve or sell alcohol to individuals who then harm a third party (you or a family member) can be liable for the ensuing damages and injuries.

For example, if a bartender serves drinks to an obviously intoxicated person who then gets into a car accident that injures or kills the other driver or passengers, the bartender can be held liable for the injuries, losses and suffering that the other driver or passengers suffer.

The laws governing dram shop liability are state-specific, with some states having very strict dram shop laws, and others having no regulations of this kind. In Minnesota, there are two specific dram shop laws.

Minnesota Dram Shop Laws

Minnesota provides two types of liability for those who illegally provide or sell alcoholic beverages. The first law, called the Dram Shop Act, applies to all those who sell alcohol illegally (i.e. to minors, to intoxicated persons, after-hours sales, etc). The second law involves social host liability, which applies to people who furnish alcohol to minors.

Both of these laws allow the parents, children, guardians, employers, spouses, or others related to the injured party to file a legal claim under the following circumstances:

  • Injury is sustained
  • Property damage has occurred
  • Means of support is lost or compromised
  • Pecuniary losses are suffered (losses measured in money)

The dram shop act holds the seller of alcoholic beverages liable for damages when the individual has made this sale illegally and damages are suffered by a third party. Under social host liability, any person who provides alcohol to people under the age of 21 can be held liable for any ensuing damages to a third party. This includes adults who have control over the property (home, boat, etc.) and knowingly or recklessly allow the intoxication of minors and adults who have sold, furnished, bartered or bought alcohol for minors.

Under dram shop liability, an aggrieved party often must first give notice to the defendant within four months after hiring an attorney and begin legal action within two years from the time of the incident. With social host liability, no notice is necessary and legal action must commence within six years.

For this reason, it is important to contact Undem Law Office for evaluation of your case to determine the best way to protect and exercise your legal rights.