Dram Shop Laws
Dram Shop laws pertain to commercial vendors like bars, restaurants, and package stores, and holds business owners responsible for injuries and damages caused by an intoxicated customer. They vary greatly from state to state, and retain separate sets of limitations regarding the amount of damages a victim can sue for. Unless you are a commercial vendor of alcohol, it unlikely for you as an employer, or anyone for that matter, to be held liable for another person’s alcohol overindulgence and subsequent damages. However, it is not impossible.
Intoxicated Individuals and Victims
In most states, a drunk person cannot sue a host for injuries and damages they endured or caused to themselves. But if an intoxicated individual causes harm or damages to another person, a third-party lawsuit can be filed by the victim, against both the intoxicated person and the host that served them the alcohol. This is especially common in cases when the defendant does not have sufficient insurance to cover their victims’ damages. But the limitations to the host’s liability differs from state to state.
Limited Liability State to State
In some states, the law does not impose any liability on a social host at all. Other states simply limit the amount of liability on a social host to accidents that occur on their premises. And some states actually extend the limit of liability to accidents and injuries that occur after they have left their premises, such as traffic accidents. But almost all states hold social hosts liable for intoxication-related accidents when 1) alcohol was served to minors, 2) Alcohol was served recklessly, or 3) a “reasonable” host should have recognized a guest’s level of intoxication and stopped serving alcoholic drinks.
Many states also hold employers responsible to a certain degree when social gatherings are held for a business-related purpose. This extra duty of care is imposed on employers under these circumstances since many employees feel obligated to attend an office party more so than another social event. In order to prevent employer-liability for over-intoxicated guests, be sure to make your social gathering’s focus on entertainment, rather than drinking. There are several steps you can take to lessen the possibility of overindulgence and alcohol-related accidents.
Preventing Alcohol-Related AccidentsFirst and foremost, you should never serve minors alcohol, or allow them to consume it under your nose. Under perfect conditions, minors would not be allowed to attend an adult social gathering where alcohol is being served and consumed. Also, always discourage guests from over-drinking, stop them from drinking further when they’ve noticeably had too much, and strongly encourage designated drivers and sober transportation.Another great tip is to hold your workplace event at a local bar or restaurant. Under Dram Shop laws, this relieves your liability for alcohol-related accidents, and provides a wait staff that is professionally-trained to monitor everyone’s alcohol consumption and politely cut someone off when they have had too much.
Try a Cash Bar
If you must host an employee social gathering on company or personal premises, consider having a cash bar. Provide all the party supplies except the liquor, and have guests pay for their alcoholic beverages with their own money. Since you are not necessarily making alcohol entirely unlimited to your guests, you can be relieved of some liability. If you have questions about an alcohol-related injury case, contact a personal injury lawyer for professional guidance. They have the knowledge to provide accurate state-specific answers to your injury-liability questions and concerns.