PA Dram Shop Cases

Established businesses, small companies, and individuals that are licensed to serve alcohol may be affected by a state’s dram shop laws. Depending on the regulations governed by the state, dram shop laws hold the establishment or individual serving alcohol liable for damages that occur as a result of serving more alcohol to a person who is already visibly intoxicated or not of legal drinking age. Many people are not familiar with dram shop law.  If you've been hurt by a drunk driver, the Pennsylvania bar or restaurant owner may be liable.

What is Dram Shop Law


Dram shop law states that an establishment or licensed individual who serves a visibly intoxicated person alcohol can be held liable for any damage or injuries caused by that person. While the dram shop law is most often cited in relation to car accidents caused by drunk drivers, it also applies in other situations, such as:

  • Injuries caused by the intoxicated individual as a result of a fight. If the individual was visibly intoxicated, served more alcohol, and then started a fight with other people.
  • Injuries caused as a result of an intoxicated person, who was served more alcohol after becoming visually intoxicated, tripping or falling.
  • Property that an intoxicated person destroys, after being served more alcohol even though he or she was visibly intoxicated.

In addition to establishments that serve alcohol, dram shop law affects privately held parties as well. What is social host liability? The law applies to any hired service that serves alcohol at private parties, such as caterers and licensed bar services, as well as the host of the party. However, most states only impose social host laws on party hosts who provide alcohol to people under the legal drinking age, which is age 21 in all states.

Dram Shop Cases

Dram Shop Liability

In most personal injury cases, liability is proven by negligence. However, negligence isn’t the only thing that’s considered when determining whether a person or business is liable for damages under the dram shop law. In some states, recklessness and/or intentional conduct are also considered by the court.

Where recklessness is used to prove liability in a dram shop case, a person or establishment can be held liable for behavior that is considered reckless, such as:

  • Intentionally serving alcohol to a patron of an establishment.
  • Serving alcohol to a person knowing that the person is visibly intoxicated or not of legal drinking age.
  • Continuously overlooking any substantial and obvious risks that indicate that serving a person alcohol could cause physical harm to other people or the person drinking the alcohol.

Some states have limited liability under their dram shop laws by restricting the dram shop lawsuits to cases where the liable party intentionally served or sold alcohol to someone knowing that the action could result in physical injuries to that person or others. Because of the liability restrictions, dram shop lawsuits in most states with limited-liability statutes, typically involve accidents that are a result of a person serving or selling alcohol to a minor or knowingly serving alcohol to an alcoholic. Some states limit the liability in dram shop cases even further by requiring the defendant to prove that the person who served the alcohol knowingly served alcohol to someone who was visibly intoxicated or to a minor knowing that the person would be driving a car after consuming the alcohol.

What is Dram Shop Law

Dram Shop Lawsuit

What is PA Dram Shop Law? Without proper documentation and evidence, a dram shop lawsuit is basically the plaintiff's word against the defendant's word. Because of this, owners of establishments or companies that serve and/or sell alcohol should take preventative steps that help will help a defense attorney plead their case, if needed, and protect their companies against dram shop liability suits by:

  • Installing security cameras that record patrons in the establishment, especially cameras that record the events that occur at the establishment’s bar area.
  • Requiring servers to keep a detailed documentation of the type of alcoholic beverage and the amount of alcohol served to each specific patron.
  • Training servers and/or bartenders to spot signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and staggering.
  • Posting a sign making patrons aware that workers in the establishment will refuse to serve them alcoholic beverages is they are visibly intoxicated.

Dram Shop Attorney

Whether you’ve been involved with an accident while intoxicated, were injured in an accident involving an intoxicated person, or your business is being sued for serving alcohol to an intoxicated person, you need to contact a dram shop attorney as soon as possible. Hire a personal injury attorney for a PA dram shop case to help get you started. This way, you can ensure that your case is filed within the state’s statute of limitations for dram shop cases or discuss building an effective dram-shop case defense for your business with an experienced professional.

Dram Shop Liability