A dram shop law imposes liability on drinking establishments, such as bars and taverns, who serve alcohol to patrons who are already visibly or obviously intoxicated. These laws provide that the drinking establishment in question may have to pay damages to third-parties who are injured as a result of over-serving.
Additionally, while serving alcohol to minors is already illegal, dram shop laws impose additional penalties on bars who serve alcohol to minors.
Does Florida Have a Dram Shop Law?
Yes, however, it is unlike most dram shop laws in the sense that it almost completely restricts the liability of establishments selling and serving alcohol. This makes Florida’s dram shop law very limited in scope and application.
Under the law, individuals or businesses who sell alcohol will generally not be held liable for damages or injuries caused by a drunk person who they sold alcohol to. This is especially true for liquor stores, since it is difficult to prove that the establishment was the cause of any injuries sustained by a third party. However, Florida businesses are held liable under two exceptions to this rule, which involve:
- The sale of alcohol to a minor: Bars and taverns will be held strictly liable for injuries caused by the tender of alcohol to a person who is under 21 years of age. “Strictly liable” means that the employee need not have any knowledge that the person was a minor at the time of they sold the alcoholic beverage to be held accountable.
- The sale of alcohol to a person who is known to be “habitually addicted” to alcohol: Similarly, establishments will be held liable if they serve alcohol to a person who is known to have a history of addiction to alcohol. Courts have held that such persons create a “foreseeable risk of injury” because they lack the capability to make responsible decisions regarding drinking.
If a drinking establishment may not be held liable under civil law, there may be other repercussions under Florida's criminal laws. For example, if the business owner was negligent or reckless in serving or selling alcohol, criminal charges may be brought.