An Introduction to Dram Shop Law | laws and issues

A “dram shop” is legal term unique to the US. It refers to any establishment that serves or sells alcoholic beverages. Many states have dram shop laws, or statutes that make such an establishment responsible for any injuries suffered or inflicting by a person who has illegally purchased alcohol from them.This seems like a strange concept to many people who believe in holding everyone responsible for their own actions, even the highly inebriated. To provide some context for these laws, which may help to explain the reasoning behind them, here is a brief overview of our country’s dram shop laws and their historical origins.What Exactly Do Dram Shop Laws Say?In some states a business is not automatically responsible for any damage caused by one of their intoxicated customers. In order to be held legally liable, they have to sell regulated beverages in an illegal way. The exact laws differ by state, but in general it is illegal for businesses to:
Sell alcohol to a person under the age of 21
Continue serving drinks to a person who is visibly inebriated
Fail to respect regulations about the hours of operation for bars or liquor stores
It is important to note that in some states the sale does not even have to be illegal. A bar or liquor store can be held responsible for injuries caused even by a perfectly legitimate customer.If an establishment breaks this law and the intoxicated person in question causes injury to himself or a third party, the establishment could face a lawsuit filed by the injured third party. In some states, a person can even sue for injuries he inflicted on himself while inebriated.Other states include further restrictions than the ones outlined about. In some places a business can be held liable for serving drinks to a person who is “habitually drunk.” In Massachusetts a business can even be used for offensive or vulgar behavior from intoxicated customers.Where Did These Laws Come From?The origins of these laws are usually traced back to the early 20th century Temperance movement. This was a group of people, largely women, who wanted to reduce the amount of liquor consumed in their country, if not end it entirely. They were a driving force behind Prohibition, the period between 1920 and 1933 during which alcohol was illegal in the US.The Temperance movement is often misunderstood. While Prohibition ultimately failed, when one learns more about the issues these women were trying to address, their attempt becomes more understandable. Rather than hating alcohol for its own sake, they were trying to fight the parental neglect, domestic violence, and poverty often associated with drug abuse.For more information on dram shop laws, contact Milwaukee defense lawyers Kohler & Hart.

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