A dram shop law or statute is a term associated with liability for injuries
caused by drunk drivers. Many states have enacted a dram shop law, but
limitations and conditions vary from one state to the next. In general,
dram shop laws refer to the idea that establishments which serve alcohol,
like bars and nightclubs, have a responsibility in preventing drunk driving.
If a drunk driver was served alcohol in one of these establishments and
later gets involved in an accident and causes injury or property damage,
the victim can potentially pursue a liability claim against the serving
Dram Shop Statute Specifics in Florida
Florida’s dram shop law, statute 768.125, reads as follows:
“…a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes
alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or who
knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all
alcoholic beverages may become liable for injury or damage caused by or
resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person.”
This means that a drunk-driving accident victim can only pursue a claim
against an alcohol-serving establishment if one of two specific conditions applies.
Underage Drinking: If the driver is under the lawful drinking age (21 in FL), serving establishments
bear the burden of responsibility in verifying legal drinking age in all
customers as well as denying service if they suspect use of a fraudulent
ID. If an underage driver is served alcohol, then leaves the establishment
and causes an accident, any party injured in that accident can pursue
a legitimate claim against the establishment under current Florida dram shop law.
Knowingly Serving an Alcoholic: If an accident is caused by a person habitually addicted to alcohol, any
person injured by the accident may be able to pursue a liability claim
against the establishment if they can prove the bartender or manager was
aware of the driver’s status as an alcoholic and elected to serve
alcohol to that individual.
These claims can be more difficult to pursue due to the burden of proof.
Proving habitual addiction to alcohol can be done by accessing the driver’s
arrest history. Evidence of court-ordered alcohol rehabilitation programs,
as well as multiple intoxication-related arrests, may serve as proof.
However, an investigation must also prove that the establishment was aware
that they were serving drinks to an alcoholic. Most times, bartenders
might not pry into touchy subjects like alcoholism and may not be aware
of a patron’s status as a diagnosed alcoholic.
Summary of Dram Shop Law Intent
Florida’s Dram Shop law has been criticized by some as weak or relatively
ineffective, but others may view the law as effectively limited to protect
bars and restaurants from indirect liability associated with individual
acts it cannot possibly control. The law aims to hold establishments responsible
for areas of clear responsibility for public safety– such as serving
any underage patron or knowingly serving someone who has a problem with alcohol.
Many bars and restaurants choose to protect themselves further by participating
in and strongly advocating taxicab ride programs for intoxicated patrons.
Many bartenders are also trained to look for signs of intoxication and
will often take proactive steps to prevent inebriated patrons from getting
behind the wheel.
Online Sunshine – 2012 Florida Statutes –