Dram Shop Duties to Patrons: Suing Bars, Bartenders, Clubs For Getting You Drunk
Adult Patron (21 and older)
However M.G.L. c.231 § 85T prevents an adult patron over the age of 21 from suing a commercial establishment for injuries resulting from his or her own intoxication unless the injured adult patron can show that the commercial establishment acted in a willful, wanton or reckless manner. The law makers in Massachusetts aren’t willing to allow an adult patron over the age of 21 who has voluntarily put himself or herself in a position where his or her judgment and function are impaired to blame others for injuries they caused to themselves because of their intoxication.
A commercial establishment acts in a willful, wanton or reckless manner when an employee:
- Knowingly and intentionally disregards an unreasonable risk; and
- The risk entails a high degree that substantial harm will result. A possibility of substantial harm isn’t enough. You must show that there was a high probability that substantial harm would result.
A bartender or server would likely be found to knowingly and intentionally disregard an unreasonable risk of harm by allowing a 21 year old patron to take 21 shots of liquor on his 21st birthday, or intentionally over serves a patron in an effort to see how drunk he can get the patron.
Although M.G.L. c.231 § 85T protects commercial servers from liability for personal injuries, it doesn’t apply when the intoxicated adult patron dies. The family of an adult patron that dies from injuries arising out of intoxication has a right to bring a wrongful death action under M.G.L. c.229 § 2 if the commercial establishment merely acted negligently and not in a willful, wanton or reckless manner.
Minor Patron (21 and under)
The willful, wanton and reckless standard that applies to adult patrons doesn’t apply to minor patrons.
Instead, commercial establishments have a duty to refrain from making alcohol available to minors because providing a minor alcohol creates an unreasonably high risk of danger in and of itself partly because minors are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than adults and cannot regulate their intake as well as adults.
A commercial establishment breaches its duty to a minor, and is be liable to a minor patron for a minor’s alcohol induced injuries, if the establishment knew or reasonably should have known that it was furnishing alcohol to a minor even if they did not directly serve the minor alcohol. So a commercial establishment could be liable if it knew or had reason to know that an adult patron was purchasing alcohol at the bar and giving it to a minor patron and that minor patron then went on to hurt himself or herself. Bars can also be liable if a minor gains access to the bar with a fake I.D.
Taunton MA Drunk Driver Accident Attorneys – We Hold Bars and Clubs Accountable For Their Actions
Liquor liability insurance policies pay a minimum of $250,000 for injury or death to one person, or a minimum of $500,000 for more than one person killed or injured in the same incident. But proving your case requires the skill of an experienced dram shop liability attorney. To get immediate help, contact our law office today to schedule a free consultation.
If you were injured—or if your loved one was killed—in an accident involving an inebriated person who was inappropriately served in a bar, restaurant or nightclub, new liquor liability laws means that the dram-shop owner cannot simply “plead poverty” and refuse to pay a claim.
The attorneys at The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan will pursue the responsible bar, restaurant, nightclub, or liquor store, if it can be reasonably concluded that the accident was caused by the negligent serving of alcohol to an already inebriated customer.