Dram Shop Liability in Florida Drunk Driving Accidents

A dram shop case involves a situation where a person goes to a bar or restaurant and drinks to the point of intoxication and then gets behind the wheel of car and causes a drunk driving accident in which someone suffers serious personal injury or death.

South Florida Car Accident LawyerWhile there is often little question of whether you have a valid claim against the at-fault drunk driver, you may be able to file a lawsuit or claim against the establishment that served the person to the point of intoxication.As our Broward car accident lawyers can explain, the reason it is called a dram shop case is because a “dram” is an old European term for a standard serving of liquor that is similar to a shot in American English. However, unlike that of other states, the Florida dram shop statute is much more limited in scope.

An example of a dram shop law that is way broader than the one in our jurisdiction was discussed in a recent article from NJ.com.  In that article, a man is suing the two bars that served him alcohol to the point of intoxication before he crashed his motorcycle. Even in the most liberal dram shop states, the law is usually reserved for victims of drunk driving car accidents suing the establishment that served the at-fault driver.  Most states would not entertain a lawsuit by the drunk driver, but the statute says anyone can sue the dram shop, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

In Florida, while we do have a dram shop law, it excuses most drinking establishments, restaurants, and social hosts, unlike the law in most other states. Pursuant to Florida statute 768.125, a person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages will not become liable for subsequent negligent actions of the intoxicated person except in following two situations:

  1. When alcohol is sold to a minor; and
  2. The sale to a person who is known to be habitually addicted to alcohol

The first situation is fairly straightforward.  If a bar sells alcohol to an underage person, and that person causes an accident, the bar can be liable under the dram shop law.  This is a strict liability law meaning that it doesn’t matter whether the bar owner knew or had reason to know the drinker was under 21.  For this reason, bars better train their bouncers well to make sure they know how to spot a good fake ID.

The second situation is where the bar has reason to know they are serving an alcoholic and letting them drive home.  This situation deals with the concept of foreseeability of an accident.  In these cases, where the dram shop law comes into play involves a bar that has a local customer that they know has a drinking problem and serves them anyway.  It might also involve a social host where the person furnishing the alcohol knows the drinker is addicted to alcohol and should not be drinking in the first place.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

Drunken driver hurt in crash sues bars for serving him alcohol, May 7, 2017, By Anthony G. Attrino, NJ.com

More Blog Entries:

Property Owner Liability for Dangerous Road Conditions, March 7, 2017, Personal Injury Lawyer Blog