Dram shop laws hold establishments, which serve liquor, responsible when a person who is obviously intoxicated is served alcohol and subsequently causes damages or injury to third parties. In the state of New York, it is against the law to serve alcohol to people who are visibly intoxicated. It is important to note however, that there is no set definition for visibly intoxicated, leaving the liquor serving establishment with the discretion to set a standard to deduce visible intoxication for itself. Many establishments set the standard for determining visible intoxication at obvious signs such as: slurred speech, belligerent or unusual behavior, and lack of coordination. Dram shop laws also prohibit the serving of alcohol to people who are known to be habitually intoxicated. Additionally, New York’s dram shop laws hold a liquor serving establishment responsible for damages and/or injuries causes by the intoxicated individual under the age of twenty-one who was served at the establishment.
Dram Shop Laws in New York
In New York, the courts have generally interpreted the dram shop law to apply solely in instances involving the commercial sale of liquor. Therefore, in instances where an intoxicated person is provided with liquor and subsequently causes injury, the dram shop law will not come into play unless the alcohol was being provided for profit arising from the distribution of the alcohol; even in instances where an under aged individual is provided alcohol in a private home, not for profit, the dram shop laws will not apply.
In addition to the requirement that the sale of alcohol must be for commercial purposes for the dram shop law to apply, the alcohol must be sold directly to the intoxicated person or persons who caused the damages and/or injury. Therefore, the purchase of alcohol by a person other than the intoxicated individual who caused the damages, which is shared with or provided to the individual is not enough to hold a liquor serving establishment liable under dram shop laws.
In the state of New York, the patron of the liquor serving establishment who was served alcohol cannot sue the establishment for damages and/or injuries which he or she sustains. Instead, only third parties who suffer damages and/or injury may bring a claim against the establishment under the dram shop law. However, if the intoxicated person is killed as a result of his or her actions while intoxicated, the children of the decedent can file a lawsuit against the liquor serving establishment for the loss of parental consortium.
To recover damages under the New York state dram shop law, a plaintiff must prove the following: 1) the plaintiff suffered injury or damages as the result of the actions of an intoxicated individual, 2) the defendant served alcohol to the intoxicated person who caused the damages or injury, and 3) the defendant therefore contributed to the further intoxication of the individual.
If you or anyone you know has sustained injury as the result of an intoxicated individual’s actions, you may wish to consult a skilled New York dram shop attorney to discuss pursuing a dram shop claim against the establishment which sold liquor to the individual to maximize recovery of damages for your injuries.