Is a Bar Liable if a Drunk Patron Hurts Someone Else or Themselves? 

 November 30, 2018

By  LMW Attorneys

Living in the United States comes with the knowledge that people love to sue for everything. Minor fender benders with no real injuries can result in protracted litigation. Coffee shops have to warn us that the beverage inside is hot. Batman costumes have to tell you that they won’t really make you fly and a certain popular energy drink doesn’t really give you wings.

Whether some of these lawsuits have any merit is debatable. But there are other instances where reasonable minds may legitimately wonder if filing a suit would be proper. For example, what happens if a bartender, being fully aware that a patron is drunk, continues to serve him or her liquor? What if that same bartender sees the patron pick up the car keys to drive back home and that patron gets in a fatal car crash right after? Is there any kind of liability on the part of the bar?

Is it Legal to Sell Alcohol to Someone Who is Intoxicated?

Some states do hold a bar liable for continuing to sell alcohol to a person who later on causes harm to themselves or a third party. These are commonly known as dram shop laws. The name comes from a measurement unit typically used to serve liquor.

Florida does impose such a liability however, is is very limited. The law clearly limits accountability to establishments who willfully sell alcohol to a person who’s under the legal drinking age (which is 21 in the Sunshine State) or if the bar knowingly serves alcohol to a person who is habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages.

If none of the instances specifically stated in the statute apply to a case, the harmed party will have to seek recourse directly from the drunk patron, their car insurance company (if there was a car accident involved), and potentially third parties who for any reason could be found liable (for example, a motor vehicle manufacturer who knew a specific make and model of car had a defect and failed to notify drivers and the drunk driver caused an accident because of those vehicle defects).

Sometimes, the answer is not clear-cut. For example, if you get hurt by a drunk patron, you won’t necessarily know whether any of the two requirements of the law applies to your case. Sometimes a process called discovery is necessary to get relevant information, such as video footage, witness testimony, or depositions (sworn statements) from bar employees.

Regardless of the circumstances, it’s always good to consult with an attorney to discuss your options.

Call us to Discuss Your Case

If you or someone you love was hurt by a drunk patron at a bar, talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. That way, you can get legal advice as to whether it may be worth it to pursue a claim against the bar.

At Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins PA, we have experienced attorneys who can best design a strategy to help you. Contact us, and let us help you.

Disclaimer: The information above is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.