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Liquor Liability: Pursuing Accountability Through Dram Shop Laws
The law recognizes that those who serve alcohol to an intoxicated person should be held responsible for their actions — especially when injuries result. In Minnesota, there are two types of laws that establish accountability: dram shop laws and social host liability.
Dram Shop Laws
A question we commonly get is, “Can a bartender who sold a drink to an intoxicated patron be responsible for that patron’s actions?” The answer is yes — in certain circumstances. When a bar, club, restaurant, liquor store or other establishment sells alcoholic drinks to an obviously intoxicated person, that business may be liable for any harm that results.
Any of the following people may be entitled to compensation.
- The person who was over-served
- Anyone injured by the over-served patron
- Family members of anyone who lost their life as a result of being over-served
- Family members of anyone killed by an over-served individual
Businesses can also be held responsible for liquor law violations such as:
- Selling alcohol without a license
- Selling alcohol after hours
- Selling alcohol to a minor
Proving a dram shop case requires tracing the chain of events leading to the accident. It is important to find out where the intoxication started — and whether the commercial establishment allowed it to continue. Crucial evidence may include receipts, camera footage and eyewitness testimony.
Social Host Liability For Underage Drinking
Many people are surprised to learn they can be liable for underage alcohol consumption that occurs in their home. Under Minnesota law, those who host, allow or know of drinking parties in their house may be responsible for the harm that results. These cases typically involve hosts who knowingly (or recklessly) permit alcohol consumption among guests under age 21.
Cities and counties have recently started enacting criminal social host ordinances. Usually, these ordinances make it a misdemeanor to knowingly or recklessly provide a location for a party, knowing that underage drinking is taking place.
Anyone injured as a result of underage drinking may be entitled to recover damages from the social host for:
- Past, present and future medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Emotional distress
- Loss of means of support
- Other types of losses