Liability From Serving Alcohol

Last updated on: May 24, 2022


Running a restaurant or bar is not always easy, even for people with years of experience.  There are multiple issues to juggle to ensure that your business stays afloat, the least of which is watching out for legal liability risks.  One area of liability that may not be anticipated by some businesses seeking to operate bars and sell alcohol is dram shop liability.

Dram shop laws are laws that place responsibility on an establishment that sells alcohol to ensure that they do not serve underage patrons or over serve other patrons even when they are over the legal drinking age.  In Florida, under the dram shop law a person who willfully and unlawfully serves alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or who knowingly serves a habitual drunkard may become liable for injury or damage caused by the intoxication of such minor or drunkard.  In terms of serving a person who is over the drinking age, the person serving the alcohol has to be aware that the person is a habitual drunk for liability to be possible.

The dram shop law allows an establishment serving alcohol to be sued by other third parties that are injured because of a drunk person who was served alcohol at the establishment.   A habitual drunk may be a regular who comes in every night and drinks until closing time and often passes out.  If this person leaves the bar one night and tries to drive home but ends up in an accident causing death or injury to others, the person who served him alcohol that night may be liable to the injured people or their survivors for civil damages.  Although the law allows a person to be sued, it may be possible for the establishment to be liable for the acts of its employees through the legal doctrine of vicarious liability.

Because of the costs that can come with a civil lawsuit, businesses that are licensed to sell alcohol should consider securing liquor liability insurance.  These insurance policies can ensure that the business doesn’t fold due to legal fees defending a civil lawsuit or paying out an award to an injured person.  Liquor liability insurance may have to be purchased separately as it is not always included under a business’ general commercial liability insurance.  It is important to remember that most insurance companies will not cover losses caused by a business selling alcohol to minors or others who are below the legal drinking age.  In addition to an insurance policy, an establishment should also train its staff on how to deal with customers who seem to have had too much to drink, and who seem underage.

Contact A Hospitality Law Attorney

If you want to start a business or are already running a business in the hospitality field and would like a consultation on how to address the legal issues that are likely to arise in the course of your business, contact a North Miami hospitality law attorney at the Charlip Law Group L.C. for a consultation today.

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