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Dram Shop Liability: When the Bar That Served Alcohol to a Drunk Driver Is Legally Responsible for a DUI Crash


You have probably seen signs posted in bars to the effect that the bartender has the right to refuse to serve alcohol to a guest who is visibly drunk.  Why would a bartender turn down an opportunity for more tips?  When bars and restaurants refuse service to noticeably drunk patrons, they are trying to protect themselves from dram shop liability.  In Florida, dram shop liability laws give people injured in DUI accidents the right to sue the bar or restaurant that provided the alcohol to the drunk driver that caused the accident.

Why Dram Shop Liability?

“Dram shop” is an old term (think Old West saloons) for an establishment that sells alcohol for consumption on the premises.  Package stores, which sell alcohol under the assumption that buyers will consume it elsewhere, do not count as dram shops.  Florida law makes it possible for people injured by drunk drivers to name drinking establishments as defendants in personal injury cases related to DUI accidents.  Dram shop laws are a boon to injured plaintiffs.  Many times, people injured by drunk drivers decide not to file personal injury lawsuits, not because there is any doubt that the drunk driver caused the crash and can therefore be found liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, the reason the injured people don’t sue is because the driver, who is serving a prison sentence for felony DUI, has no means to pay for the plaintiff’s medical bills.  In general, businesses have greater ability to pay personal injury settlements than individuals.

Widower Sues Golf Course for Dram Shop Liability

One example of a Florida dram shop liability lawsuit is Jorge Gonzalez’s lawsuit against Stoneybrook West Golf Club in Winter Garden.  After playing golf at the club and drinking alcohol at its restaurants, Nathan Hartman caused a car accident in which Gonzalez’s wife Beatriz died.  The court eventually ruled in favor of Gonzalez, due in large part to testimony from a friend of Hartman’s who frequently played golf with him at Stoneybrook.  The friend described Hartman’s routine on days when he went to Stoneybrook, which was almost every weekend.  Hartman would drink whiskey and Coke before, during, and after his golf game at various bars and restaurants at the country club; the bartenders knew him and knew his drink orders.  Therefore, they must have known that he was a habitual binge drinker and had been binge drinking on the day of the accident.

Reach Out to Us Today for Help

Even if dram shop laws do not apply in your case, a Jacksonville personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you have been injured by a drunk driver.  Contact Douglas & Douglas for help today.



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