What is Dram Shop Liability? If you have suffered harm in a motor vehicle accident in Alabama that was caused by a drunk driver, then you may be entitled to significant damages, not only from the drunk driving defendant but also from commercial vendors and social hosts who furnished the drunk driving defendant with alcohol. This is popularly known as dram shop liability.
Imposing liability on third-parties is an excellent way to ensure that you are able to secure maximum compensation for your injuries, as in many cases, the driver may not have sufficient insurance to cover your losses. Depending on the circumstances, Alabama law provides injured plaintiffs a number of opportunities to impose liability on third-parties in the motor vehicle accident context, from the negligent entrustment doctrine to dram shop liability.
In Alabama, as in many other states, dram shop liability is split between commercial vendors and non-commercial social hosts. Each defendant is subject to somewhat different rules and limitations.
Let's explore the basics. Vendor Liability Alabama law imposes liability on any commercial vendor (i.e., a dram shop) who furnishes the drunk driving defendant with alcohol, so long as you, the injured plaintiff, can prove that the commercial vendor violated some alcohol-related law, such as serving alcohol to a minor below the age of 21 or serving the defendant alcohol despite being obviously intoxicated at the time.
How does this play out, exactly? Consider the following example.
Suppose that you are injured by a drunk driver in a car accident. You consult an attorney and begin the investigation process, which reveals that the drunk driver was at a popular bar in town earlier that night, drinking with friends. You then discover that the drunk driver was already intoxicated when they were at the bar and that various eyewitnesses noted that the drunk driver was being served alcohol despite slurring and tripping over themselves. Clearly, the bar was in violation of the law.
Now, given those facts, you could bring a civil action against the bar for the damages you suffered in the car accident. The bar would be liable for their own contribution of fault to the accident. Social Host Liability In Alabama, social hosts are similarly at-risk for being held liable under dram shop rules (for violating an alcohol-related law). Prohibitions against serving alcohol to minors, and against serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons will, therefore, activate dram shop liability in the social host context.
So, for example, if you have sustained an injury in a drunk driving incident, and you find that the drunk driver is a minor, then you may want to investigate whether a social host furnished the minor with alcohol (in violation of state prohibitions against such acts). If the social host knowingly furnished the minor with alcohol, then you could sue and recover significant damages from them to compensate you for your various losses.