Written by attorney Bruce Robert Millar

Georgia's "Dram Shop" law allows innocent victims to sue sellers of alcoholic beverages in DUI crash

Georgia's dram shop act, O.C.G.A. 51-1-40, allows innocent victims to bring a legal claim against the seller of alcoholic beverages, such as a restaurant, bar, or tavern, if two conditions are met: first, the victim must prove that the seller knowingly sold, furnished, or served alcoholic beverages to a person at a time when he or she was in a noticeable state of intoxication, and; secondly, the victim must establish that the furnishing or service of alcohol was carried out knowing that the person will soon be driving a motor vehicle. To successfully bring a claim in Georgia against a seller of alcohol, the victim needs to show that a jury could reasonably find that the server knowingly serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated person. This can be proven by eyewitness testimony or by expert testimony showing that the amount of alcohol served would have most likely resulted in visible intoxication. Additionally, the victim must show that a jury may reasonably find that the server should have known that the drunk (DUI) driver would soon drive drunk. This can be done by establishing that the server had actual knowledge that the person being served would soon drive or by circumstantial evidence such as: the drunk had driven to the restaurant/bar by him or herself, drank by him or herself, was a routine customer who normally drove him or herself to the bar/restaurant, or other facts from which a jury could reasonably find that the server knew that the intoxicated person would soon be driving. In one notable case, Griffin Motel Co v. Strickland, 223 Ga. App. 812 (1996) the Georgia Court of Appeals found that a bar could be liable to an injury victim where the bartender had walked to the drunk drivers car to talk with another patron and had also heard the drunk driver state to his friends "let's go... to Atlanta" (from Griffin), yet the bartender continued to serve alcohol to the intoxicated customer. In other cases, however, the Courts have found that the server was not responsible when, for example, the intoxicated customer was drinking at an Airport, because the server could not know whether the customer was going to exit the airport and drive or get on a flight. So, as you can see, these cases are fact specific and must be carefully investigated.

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