All U.S. states have set strict laws and hefty penalties targeted at reducing incidents of drunk driving. These DUI/DWI laws aim to punish motorists who opt to drink and drive, thus risking their own lives and the lives of others on the road. In order to further address the problem of drunk driving, however, many states have established what is known as a Dram Shop Law.
The word “dram” is a unit of measure (about a spoonful) in which vendors in 18th Century England traditionally sold homemade gin. Nowadays, a “dram shop” is a term used to describe any establishment where alcohol may be purchased and consumed on site, such as in a bar, restaurant, lounge, sports arena, concert hall, university, or tavern.
While there are a few states that do not impose any form of dram shop liability, the majority of the U.S. states recognize some form of dram shop law. Although these dram shop laws differ by state, common factors exist among these states that do impose these laws.
Dram shops are generally liable when they have violated a regulation or law in the state where the liquor was served or sold. Although the most common dram shop violation in Minnesota and throughout the country is selling alcohol to a customer who is obviously inebriated, the illegal sale of alcoholic beverages can also include the selling alcohol to a minor, selling alcohol after hours, and selling alcohol without a license.
Minnesota statutes allow DWI charges to be filed when a motorist is found to be operating a vehicle with a BAC of .08 or higher. Unknown to many, however, is that the intoxicated motorist is not the only one who may be held responsible when injuries or collisions occur. In the event of a DWI, establishments and social hosts that serve alcohol may also be held liable.
The Minnesota Dram Shop Law refers to the law that holds public establishments and individuals accountable if they sell or provide alcohol illegally. Under the state’s law, legal responsibility may be imposed on the person or entity whose decision to serve alcohol ultimately results in injury or death. State courts use the term “sold” widely, allowing it to refer to bartered exchanges, as well as alcohol drinks purchased by a third party for the intoxicated person.
A dram shop claim is often one component of a motor vehicle accident case involving a DWI charge. When a motorist is clearly inebriated or intoxicated, he or she is likely not in the proper state to make sound and reasonable decisions, and is unlikely to be aware of the dangers brought about by driving impaired. In such situations, dram shop laws place the responsibility on the establishment or social host to stop serving alcohol to that motorist.
Victims of a Minnesota DWI may not always receive sufficient compensation from the drink driver’s insurance and assets. It is possible that the DWI offender may not have any insurance, which means that the victim may have difficulty obtaining any form of compensation for their costly medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. Dram shop laws, however, allow DWI victims to possibly claim compensation from the place the drunk driver acquired his or her alcohol.
Source: Dram Shop Laws and Social Host Liability for Alcohol-Related Accidents in Minnesota, published on https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/dram-shop-laws-social-host-liability-alcohol-related-accidents-minnesota.html