As a restaurant owner, you provide your patrons with a relaxing atmosphere where they can escape from the chaos of their world and relax with food and drink. Your establishment serves alcohol and one day you learn that a patron was in a drunk driving accident after leaving your restaurant. Would you be liable for any of the damages caused by the drunk driver? Are you familiar with the laws that protect you as a restaurant owner? This post will help break down these laws so you can know what you can and cannot be liable for in this type of situation. You may also want to consider working with a business litigation lawyer Memphis, TN turns to in order to ensure you’re covered.
Dram Shop Law
All states have a dram shop law. This law means that if a bar or restaurant owner serves alcohol to someone who is clearly drunk or intoxicated and who then injures someone else as a result of their drunkenness, the restaurant can be liable for the injuries. It is imperative that the defendant provide evidence that proves that the restaurant knew this person was severely intoxicated and dangerous to others and yet still continued to serve them alcohol.
First-Party Dram Shop vs. Third-Party Dram Shop Cases
First party dram shop cases involve the person who was directly being served by the restaurant owner. For example, if the person who was drinking gets into an accident and only injures themselves, they could sue the restaurant using a first-party dram shop case. These cases are extremely hard to win since they would need to prove to the jury that they were somehow not responsible for their actions. However, if the case involves a restaurant serving a minor alcohol and that minor is injured as a result, a jury could hold the restaurant responsible for serving someone who is underage.
Third-party dram shop cases are when the person who is injured was not the person who was drinking. For example, if someone is hit by a drunk driver and is injured as a result, they could file a third-party dram case against the restaurant.
The defendant will need to prove that the restaurant owner was negligent – that they knew that the person they were serving was intoxicated and yet continued to serve them alcohol. Other examples of negligence include not checking IDs for minors, serving drinks after the restaurant is closed, serving someone an excessive amount of alcohol at one time, etc.
If the defendant is able to prove the restaurant was negligent, they could be awarded up to $250,000 in damages.
How to prevent a dram shop case
As a restaurant owner, there are things you can do to help your case if you are ever in the situation where someone files a lawsuit against your bar.
- You can regularly send your employees to a server education course. This shows that you care about the safety of both your servers and your customers.
- Encourage your customers not to get intoxicated by offering them non alcoholic beverage alternatives.
- If your employees see someone who is intoxicated, offer to call them a taxi or encourage them to take an Uber or Lyft home.
While many people can try to blame the restaurant or bar for the drunken behavior, there are many things you can do as a restaurant owner to prevent any lawsuits from happening. Make sure you hire good employees and strictly enforce your alcohol rules to keep both your restaurant and your customers safe.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Patterson Bray, for their knowledge about business law and drunk drivers.