State College has numerous restaurants and bars that serve and entertain visitors and Penn State students. But these establishments, and their employees, may also share legal liability in specific personal injury lawsuits if their patrons injure someone in a car crash or other accident. This dram shop liability can be important for obtaining compensation and damages.

Dram shop

Dram shop liability or dram shop laws govern establishments such as bars, taverns and restaurants that sell and serve alcoholic beverages to patrons who appear intoxicated or to minors who then cause injury or death to others. Bartenders and other employees who serve a visibly intoxicated customer or a minor along with their employer, may be held legally liable if they injure third parties or cause property damage.

The word dram shop was originally used to describe a bar, restaurant, tavern or other establishment that served alcoholic beverages. Liquor was sold by small unit of liquid measure known as a dram.

How dram shop laws work 

Pennsylvania is one of 42 states with a dram shop law. There are two types of cases. These are first-party and third-party dram shop cases.

In a first-party case, the person who drank too much alcohol prosecutes the bartender or the establishment that served them for compensation of any injuries or damage they suffered, such as getting hurt after tripping, while they were under the influence of alcohol. Pennsylvania’s dram shop law provides for this first-party liability.

It could be more difficult to prevail in these first-party cases because a jury may be reluctant to award compensation to an adult who drank too much and had some responsibility for the harm they suffered. Minors may have more success in these actions.

Third-party dram shop actions involve an intoxicated person who injures another person or their property. Typical examples involve a patron who was served liquor even though they were visibly intoxicated and injured another person in a car accident or fight.

Under Pennsylvania law, a plaintiff must prove that an establishment with a beverage license or any of their employees or agents, such as a bartender or server, had sold, furnish or gave alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person or to a minor. There is no liability if the establishment sold or gave alcohol to an alcoholic, intemperate person or a person with mental issues unless they were visibly intoxicated.

Evidence that helps convince juries of visible intoxication includes outside reports that the person binge drinking such as having four to five drinks within a few hours. Other evidence indicate that the person smelled of alcohol and was having problems with walking or standing.

An experienced personal attorney can help gather evidence and pursue the right to compensation for students, their families and other victims of harm from visibly intoxicated person who was served alcohol in a bar or restaurant. They may help assure that a lawsuit is timely filed.