The Dram Shop Act And Restaurant Liability

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The Dram Shop Act And Restaurant Liability

A restaurant or bar owner may be held liable for the acts of their patrons who drink and later drive while intoxicated.

In order to sustain a cause of action under General Obligations Law (commonly known as the Dram Shop Act) the plaintiff must show : (1) that he was injured by an intoxicated person; (2) the defendant sold to or otherwise procured liquor for the intoxicated person; and (3) the defendant thereby caused or contributed to such intoxication. Recently, a restaurant and a bar were both sued for wrongful death after a man died in an automobile accident while driving home after allegedly drinking alcohol at the restaurant and subsequently, at the bar.

The court ruled in favor of the restaurant and stated that the plaintiff failed to show that the restaurant sold to or otherwise procured liquor for the intoxicated person. This conclusion was reached after the plaintiff failed to counter the statements of the defendants and witnesses asserting that the victim did not appear intoxicated at the restaurant on the night of the accident. The liability then rested with the bar.

The owners of any establishment that serves alcoholic beverages would be wise to inform and advise their entire staff of the consequences that can result in serving a patron who appears intoxicated. Employees who do not know of the Dram Shop Act are likely to violate it. Additionally, an owner should adopt a strict policy which mandates the discharge of any employee who serves an alcoholic beverage to anyone in contravention to this policy.

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