Negligent Liquor Bars and Dram Shop Laws 

In Florida, under specific circumstances, vendors such as bars, drinking establishments and restaurants – and/or their employees - may potentially be held liable for accidents, property damage, injuries and deaths resulting from the negligence of intoxicated patrons. These dram shop laws are codified in Section 768.125 of the Florida Statutes and are explained below.

If you were injured by the actions of an intoxicated driver, it is advisable to contact an experienced Florida Negligent Liquor Bars and Dram Shop Laws Attorney immediately to discuss your legal rights to compensatory damages. It is important to understand that compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage and more may be pursued in a variety of ways, even if dram shop laws do not apply.

Understanding Florida’s Dram Shop Laws

The term dram shop generally refers to an establishment that sells alcohol. Historically, alcohol used to be sold by the dram, or spoonful.

Under Florida’s dram shop laws, liability may potentially ensue under two different circumstances:

  1. If alcohol was sold or furnished to a minor, or,
  2. If alcohol was knowingly served to “a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages…”

Serving a Minor

If alcohol is sold or given to a minor - an individual under the age of 21 – the seller, provider and/or the establishment may potentially be liable for any injuries or damage “caused by or resulting from the intoxication of the minor…”

Example: A bar sells alcohol to Edward, a minor. Edward leaves the bar, gets in his car, starts to drive home, but is so intoxicated he strikes Sally, a pedestrian. The accident causes severe injuries, resulting in expensive hospital and medical expenses, months of physical rehabilitation, lost wages due to not being able to work, and severe pain and suffering. Sally sues not only Edward, but the owner of the bar, as well as the bartender who served the minor.

The bar and the bartender will potentially be liable under Florida’s dram shop laws. Note that this is so even if Edward presented a fraudulent driver’s license stating that he was 21. The bar will be liable under the theory of strict liability, which means that it does not matter if the bar or server did not know that Edward was a minor - he just has to be a minor. 

Serving a Person Habitually Addicted to Alcohol

In Florida, if a patron orders and is served drink after drink, becomes extremely intoxicated, leaves the bar in an obviously drunken stupor, gets in his car and strikes a person, the bar would potentially be liable under the dram shop laws only if they knew the patron was habitually addicted to alcohol.

  • In other words, unless the bar or server knew the patron was habitually addicted to alcohol, they would not be liable.
  • For liability purposes, it does not matter that the patron was visibly intoxicated.
  • The plaintiff would have to prove that the bar or the server had knowledge that the patron was an alcoholic.

How would the plaintiff prove that the bar or server had knowledge that the patron was habitually addicted to alcohol? If the patron came in on a regular basis or on numerous occasions and was known to be an alcoholic to the bar and/or the bartender, it could be argued with relative certainty that the patron was a known alcoholic.

Are Social Hosts Liable Under Dram Shop Laws?

An example of a social host is someone who throws a private party in their home. Under Florida’s dram shop laws, there is no mention of liability for social hosts who serve alcohol. However, the social host may face a driver’s license suspension or revocation under Florida Statute 322.057 for serving alcohol to a minor.

Compensatory Damages

Victims who are injured by intoxicated drivers may potentially pursue economic and noneconomic damages. Of course, every case is unique and the results will depend on the circumstances involved.

Damages may potentially include the following:

  • Medical expenses – hospital, doctor, rehabilitation, medication, future treatment, etc.
  • Lost income – and lost future income, resulting from the incident
  • Property damage – vehicle repair or replacement, other property compensation
  • Pain and suffering – determined according to each case

You can reach Personal Injury Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected]

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.
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