Anyone who distributes or sells alcohol to others is considered to be an alcohol provider. A few examples of alcohol providers may include parents who serve alcohol to the friends of their children, employees of a liquor store, or restaurant or bar servers.

What Types of People are Alcohol Providers Not Supposed to Sell Alcohol?

In the past, alcohol providers were not held responsible for selling to intoxicated individuals or minors, but this has changed. It is illegal to sell to minors or those who are already intoxicated, and alcohol providers who do so may be held liable in both criminal and civil court.

What are Some Consequences for Selling to These People?

The legal consequences of selling alcohol to minors and intoxicated persons vary with each state. Penalties may include fines, probation, jail, suspension or revocation of the business’ liquor license. Civil lawsuits are also possible, particularly if injury or death occurred after the alcohol had been provided to the individual.

Why are Alcohol Providers Responsible?

Alcohol providers are held responsible for whom they provide alcohol, because they owe a reasonable duty of care to others. For instance, any reasonable person would not give beer to a 13 year old, and any reasonable person would not serve alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated. Anyone who fails to act responsibly and with a reasonable duty of care may be held liable in criminal and civil court.

Some states hold alcohol providers responsible for drunk driving or any injuries sustained due to the actions of the intoxicated person. While bartenders and other professionals can be held criminally liable for the actions of a customer, private individuals cannot be held criminally liable as they do not have a liquor license. But private individuals, like a host of a party, can be held civilly liable.

However, it is not common for bartenders or vendors of alcohol to be held liable for the actions of a drunk driver. While many states do have the law on the books, it is very difficult to enforce and hard to determine which bartender or supplier is responsible.

What are Some Steps to Protect Alcohol Providers From Liability?

Many states require alcohol providers to attend training and certification for serving alcohol responsibly. Below are a few steps alcohol providers should take to help protect themselves from liability:

  • Check for Identification: All states require alcohol providers to check identification.
  • Monitor Alcohol Consumption: Monitor behavior, watch for signs of intoxication, and cut people off from drinking alcohol when necessary.
  • Provide Designated Drivers: Many drinking establishments will call a taxi, or ride share service for individuals who have been drinking alcohol. Social hosts should also ensure a designated driver is available to guests. 

Should I Hire an Attorney?

Alcohol providers should consult a business lawyer on host liability, current laws, and regulations. Alcohol providers who have been charged with a crime should consult a criminal lawyer, and those who are facing a lawsuit should consult a personal injury lawyer.