Dram Shop Duties to Member of the Public

If a drunk adult patron (over the age of 21) of a commercial business operates a car and injures a member of the public then the commercial business (licensed seller or server of alcohol) will liable for injuries if it has breached its duty to members of the public. A commercial establishment has a duty to protect members of the public from intoxicated patrons and will be found to have breached its duty when if it continues to serve a patron that it knew was drunk, or should have known was drunk.

Dram Shop Liability

In Massachusetts law, a “dram shop” is any establishment that sells alcoholic beverages—a broad category that includes bars, restaurants, sports arenas, social clubs and liquor stores. The liability at issue here is when the bar, restaurant, nightclub, etc. continues serving alcoholic beverages to an already clearly inebriated customer, who then goes on to be involved in a drunk-driving accident or a brawl inside or outside the establishment resulting in injury. (Of course, restaurants and bars can incur other types of liability common to retail establishments, such as slips and falls, but these have nothing to do with the consumption or serving of alcohol.)

Liquor Liability Laws In Massachusetts

Massachusetts Liquor Liability or Dram Shop Laws don’t just apply to situations involving drunk driving accidents. Dram Shop establishments (any business that serves alcohol) may also be held liable if they over-serve a patron and that patron commits an assault and battery or other violent crime on another patron. In these situations recovery can be sought against both the intoxicated person that caused the injuries and the business establishment that over-served the intoxicated person.

Social Host Liability Laws

Social host liability laws deal with individual property owners or persons in control of property like home, boat, or hotel room who serves alcohol or allows the consumption of alcohol to occur on their property. Social host liability laws serve to extend liability to any property owner who provides or allows a visibility intoxicated guest or minor to consume alcohol on their property. In these situations the social host can be held liable for any injuries caused by or sustained to the intoxicated guest or minor.

Social Host Liability

In many cases, adults accused of social host liability will claim that they were acting with the best of intentions—maintaining, for example, that they would rather have their teenaged children and their friends drinking in the safety of their home rather than driving to another location outside their control. As logical, or even as falsely admirable, as this may seem, it does not exempt adults from responsibility for allowing minors to consume alcohol in their home. An adult needn’t even be present to be charged with social host liability; an unlocked liquor cabinet, combined with knowledge of a child’s proclivities for drugs or alcohol, may be enough to seal the deal…