It is common knowledge that consuming alcohol lowers inhibitions while simultaneously degrading a person’s ability to exercise sound judgment. It is also well known that the combination of those two factors often results in injuries and/or damage. However, less well known is the fact that the liability for injuries and damages may not fall on the individual who drunkenly cause them.
In some areas, like Pennsylvania, the individual who provides alcohol for the person who drunkenly caused damage may be held liable for those damages. This is known as a dram shop law. The term “dram shop” comes from 18th Century British business that sold gin by the spoonful, which at the time was called a “dram.” Now, dram shop laws apply to individuals who supply alcohol to a person who causes damages.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Code
The state of Pennsylvania, like every other state, has a set of laws that specify how alcohol is to be sold and distributed. In regard to dram shop laws, the Pennsylvania Liquor Code states that it is unlawful for a person “to sell, furnish or give any liquor or malted or brewed beverages, or to permit any liquor or malted or brewed beverages to be sold, furnished or given, to”
· Any person visibly intoxicated
· Any insane person
· Any minor
· Habitual drunkards
· Persons of known untempered habits
What can be covered by dram shop liability?
Dram shop liability claims are civil claims. Because of this, damages are expressed and collected in the form of monetary resources. They are specifically designed to cover expenses that are amassed as a result of medical bills that resulted from the drunken person’s injury, property damage, lost wages and lost future wages, etc.
It should be noted that dram shop liability claims are similar to other civil liability claims in that they are subject to Pennsylvania’s statutes of limitations. According to these statues, civil liability claims must be filed within two years of the date of injury. If the claims are filed any time outside of that two-year period, it is possible that the claim will be considered legally invalid.
Just as citizens have a duty to conduct themselves in a reasonable manner, so do businesses that distribute alcohol. Unfortunately, neither citizen nor businesses always follow the rule of law. Sometimes that behavior results in no adverse consequences, but there are many other times in which the consequences are very significant. Dram shop liability can be difficult to prove, but the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced legal professional could make all the difference.