Dram shop is a term for laws that hold retail establishments and sometimes social hosts liable for damages caused by serving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated patron (including alcohol served to minors).

The purpose of dram shop laws is to place responsibility on those who profit from the distribution of alcohol. Plus, the laws provide an incentive to owners of alcohol establishments to develop responsible service policies, and to properly train employees to refuse alcohol sales.

Dram Shop Laws Differ Among States

Each state varies as to whom is liable when an intoxicated patron, guest, or minor causes injuries to oneself or to others. States that do impose a dram shop law vary depending on how each state uses and defines terms such as:

  • Intoxication
  • Guest and/or patron
  • Sales
  • Retailers

The similarity among states that have adopted a dram shop law is the application of the “obvious intoxication test”, meaning that an employee/retailer knew or should have known that the patron was so intoxicated that more alcohol would cause danger to himself or to others.

Do All States Have a Dram Shop Law?

Not all states have adopted a version of dram shop law. Currently these states have no dram shop liability:

Do I Need a Lawyer For a Dram Shop Claim?

Quite often a dram shop claim is only part of a case involving injuries from a DUI or DWI. Regardless if an owner has liability insurance, a business attorney in your state can help determine if a dram shop violation played a part in the incident, and can advise you of any dram shop laws in your state.