Dram Shop Law: Are Bars Liable for Alcohol-Related Incidents?

Dram shop law, are bars liable for alcohol related incidents?
Dram shop law, are bars liable for alcohol related incidents?

Drunk driving is one example of an alcohol-related accident with potentially tragic consequences. However, intoxication can lead to injury in a number of different scenarios that don’t involve vehicles. In Ohio, an injured person can sue the bar that served drinks to the person who caused the accident. This is called a “dram shop case.”

What Is a ‘Dram Shop’ Case?

At one point in time, taverns and bars were called ‘dram shops’ because alcohol was sold by the ‘dram.’ Nowadays, dram shop laws apply to establishments that sell liquor.

Are Bars Liable for Drunk Driving?

In Ohio, bar liability is set out in section 4399.18 of the Ohio Revised Code. In general, a bar is exempt from liability for injuries that happen off its property unless that bar sold alcohol to someone intoxicated or underage. For a lawsuit to succeed, the person’s intoxication must be the cause of the injury or damage at issue.

Who Can Sue?

If someone is seriously injured or killed because of the recklessness of a drunk person, that injured party or his or her estate may sue the bar for injuries and losses. The estate may sue the bar for supplying alcohol or continuing to serve alcohol to an obviously intoxicated patron.

Are Only Bars Liable in Dram Shop Incidents?

Homeowners or employers can also be held liable if they negligently provide alcohol to their guests and allow them to leave their home or event in an intoxicated state.

How Is Liability Proven?

In order to bring a cause of action against the bar owner, the injured person must prove that the intoxication was the cause of damage or harm. The plaintiff would also have to show the bar recklessly disregarded the law by serving the drunk person, either by not asking for ID or by procuring alcohol despite evidence of intoxication. If a bartender gave a drink to someone smelling of alcohol and acting drunk, and that person caused an accident soon afterwards, this criterion may be met.

Getting Help

If you or a loved one has been injured because of someone’s intoxication, a personal injury lawyer can help. At FDS Law, we have a no-fee-if-no-recovery policy, which means you owe nothing unless we win your case. Give us a call to learn more.


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