What Are Dram Shop Laws

Dram shop laws are a set of laws that hold establishments, such as bars, restaurants, and liquor stores, liable for serving alcohol to individuals who subsequently cause harm to others or themselves as a result of their intoxication. These laws vary by jurisdiction, as they are enacted and enforced at the state or provincial level in the United States and Canada, respectively.

The term “dram shop” historically referred to establishments that sold alcohol by the “dram,” which was a small unit of liquid measurement. Today, the term is used more broadly to encompass any establishment that serves or sells alcohol.

Dram shop laws typically impose liability on the establishments under certain circumstances. The specifics can vary, but here are some common principles:

  1. Sale to a visibly intoxicated person: If a visibly intoxicated person is served alcohol by an establishment, and that person subsequently causes harm to others or themselves, the establishment may be held liable.
  2. Sale to a minor: If an establishment serves alcohol to a minor (someone under the legal drinking age), and that minor causes harm to others or themselves as a result, the establishment can be held liable.
  3. Notice of intoxication: In some jurisdictions, the establishment must have had notice or knowledge that the person they served was already intoxicated at the time of service.

The purpose of dram shop laws is to hold establishments accountable for their role in contributing to incidents of drunk driving, assaults, or other harmful actions caused by intoxicated individuals. These laws aim to deter establishments from over-serving alcohol and encourage responsible alcohol service.

It’s important to note that the specific details and requirements of dram shop laws can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another. Therefore, it is crucial to consult the relevant laws and legal resources in your specific jurisdiction for accurate and up-to-date information.

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