Dram Shop/Liquor Liability

Dram Shop liability is an area of law in which the sale or furnishing of liquor is made to two general categories of people who should not be provided such alcohol, and as a result of the provision of alcohol to this person, he or she causes a serious injury or fatality. The two general categories are persons who are under the age of twenty one, and people who are “visibly intoxicated.” This area of law is also known as “liquor liability.”

More specifically, there are three general sections of New York Law that cover Dramshop liability. The first is Section 11-100 of the General Obligations Law, which states in relevant part that anyone who suffers personal injury or death due to the intoxication or impairment of someone who is under age 21, has a right to bring a claim or lawsuit against any person who knowingly causes such intoxication or impairment by unlawfully furnishing alcoholic beverages to that person knowing that the person was under 21 years of age.

Clearly, this section of law is aimed at owners of bars, restaurants, liquor stores, delicatessens, or mini marts who do not obtain proper identification from people purchasing liquor from them, and as a result of the sale of liquor to the minor, he or she is involved in a serious or fatal accident which is directly attributable to his or her intoxication. However, the language “assisting in procuring” addresses those that might illegally purchase alcohol for minors.

The second section, 11-101 of the General Obligations Law, states in relevant part that anyone who suffers personal injury or death due to the intoxication of anyone who was sold or furnished alcohol while “visibly intoxicated”, shall have a right to bring a claim or lawsuit against the person who sold or furnished the alcohol, for their injuries or death caused by the intoxicated person. This section relates to the sale or unlawful procurement of alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person of any age, who as a result of that intoxication causes physical or financial injury or death to another person. Further, there is a right to bring a claim for “exemplary”, or punitive damages, which are damages not meant solely for compensation of the victim, but rather to punish the wrongdoer who sold or furnished the alcohol to the visibly intoxicated person.

The third section is Article 65 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, which prohibits the sale of alcohol to persons under the age of 21, to “visibly intoxicated” persons, and to “habitual drunkards known to be such to the person authorized to dispense any alcoholic beverages.”

Dram Shop cases are very fact specific and often complex. As a result, it is critical that you retain a firm that has the requisite experience, background and knowledge to successfully litigate a Dram Shop case. At the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel, we have been prosecuting Dram Shop cases since 1986 in the State and Federal Courts throughout New York State. For example, what defines “visibly intoxicated”? (Someone may be quite intoxicated and not show signs, or not be intoxicated, yet appear to be so, for example). What is a “habitual drunkard”, and what is the standard by which this is “known to be so” by the person authorized to dispense alcohol? Additionally, as Dram Shop insurance coverage is quite expensive, in our firm’s experience, a large majority of bars, restaurants and other establishments do not carry Dram Shop coverage. This can lead to a disclaimer of coverage by the defendant’s liability insurance company, and necessitate a careful asset check and investigation through the New York State Liquor Authority to determine the ownership of the bar or restaurant and the identity of possible defendants.

At the Law Offices of Mark A. Siesel, we have represented clients throughout the State Of New York over the last twenty seven years who have suffered serious injuries in Dram Shop accidents, construction accidents and injuries due to medical malpractice of defective products. Our goal is to maximize each client’s compensation for pain and suffering, past and future medical and hospital expenses, past and future lost earnings, loss of earnings potential, and the loss of the ability to perform activities of daily living. Contact the knowledgeable and experienced lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark A. Siesel for a free consultation to discuss your potential case. Contact us anytime at 888-761-7633 or online.