Liquor Liability - Dram Shop Cases
What is Dram Shop/Liquor Server Liability?
In Massachusetts, dram shop liability can apply to any place that serves alcoholic beverages. This includes: bars, nightclubs, restaurants, social clubs, liquor stores, and even individuals serving alcohol to their guests at a private party. These proprietors and social hosts are required to refrain from serving or selling alcohol to persons who are already visibly intoxicated. They may be subject to civil liability if they do serve or sell to a visibly intoxicated person and that person subsequently causes a car accident or otherwise injures or kills another person or himself. The most common set of facts leading to dram shop liability is: a visibly drunk person is over-served, that person later engages in drunk driving, and he injures or kills another person or himself. Although this is the most typical example, it is important to remember that dram shop liability is not limited to these facts. It may be imposed where the drunken person gets into a fight in or outside of the bar, acts recklessly and hurts another person, or causes harm to himself, another, or property in any way.
Filing a Dram Shop/Liquor Liability Lawsuit in Massachusetts
Dram shop liability claims are not easy, and you will need a good lawyer on your side. To prove a dram shop liability claim in MA, one must establish that the server knew or should have known that the person he or she served was drunk. This is not necessarily proven by blood tests or breathalyzer results alone. Prompt witness statements and depositions are crucial to dram shop claims. It will also be important to look into the adequacy of bartender and wait staff training procedures.
In determining which laws to use when litigating a Dram Shop case, there are a number of considerations. First, Massachusetts Law states that no person who is intoxicated should be served alcohol. This seems to be an offense in itself, which leads most litigants to look further to negligence law. Dram Shop cases generally must meet the same elements as negligence, which are duty, a breach of that duty, injury or damage cause to the plaintiff, and causation. In recent years, however, the court has modified this approach. Through common law, the courts have adopted a series of elements that must be met in order to successfully pursue a Dram Shop case, more specifically a case that has to do with vehicular injuries. First, the plaintiff must show that the driver was a customer of the bar that is the defendant in the case. Second, the plaintiff must show that the driver was served alcoholic beverages, and third the plaintiff must show that those beverages were served to the drive while the drive was already intoxicated. Fourth, the plaintiff must show that the server knew or should have known that the driver was intoxicated. Fifth, the plaintiff must show that the driver operated a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Sixth, the plaintiff must show that the operation was reasonably foreseeable by the bar, meaning the bar should have known that the driver would get behind the wheel of a car. Finally, the plaintiff must show that the driver caused an injury that was within the scope of the risk. Each of these elements, though specifically adapted to motor vehicle injuries, can be extended to nearly any other type of injury.
While the liability created under these laws certainly seems broad, the courts in most circumstances have declined to extend the law to private hosts of parties. In limited circumstances, private hosts have been held liable for the actions of minors they serve, but never for adults. Further, the same elements of negligence must be present for a successful lawsuit, which can be more difficult to meet in these types of situations.
Call the Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys of Altman & Altman LLP Today at 617 492 3000 or 800 481 6199
For over four decades, the Greater Boston Law Firm of Altman & Altman, LLP has been providing outstanding legal services to clients throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Our attorneys have recovered millions of dollars in jury awards, claims and settlements for our clients. If you would like to speak with a lawyer about a dram shop liability claim, please Contact the MA Law Firm of Altman & Altman LLP. Our personal injury group has decades of experience handling dram shop liability cases and all types of personal injury cases. We are an extremely talented and hardworking team who cares about our clients.
Call the outstanding personal injury attorneys of Altman & Altman LLP at 617.492.3000 or 800.481.6199 toll-free, or contact us online for a free initial consultation. We are available twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week to answer any questions and address any concerns that you might have. All consultations are completely confidential.
The Law Firm of Altman & Altman handles MA Dram Shop Cases on a contingency fee basis - We Charge No Fee Unless You Recover.