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Bar Owners Can Be Liable for Injuries Caused by Drunk Patrons

Every year hundreds of persons are killed by drunk drivers in Alabama, and thousands more are injured. You probably know that driving while intoxicated or impaired is very likely evidence of negligence, and the driver may be liable for damages in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. But did you know that the bar or restaurant which served the drunk driver may also be liable too?

Under section 6-5-71 of the Alabama Code, known as the Dram Shop Act, any person who sells or gives alcohol to another person contrary to law may be liable for any damages caused by the intoxicated individual. The law allows the injured person to sue for damages such as medical expenses and pain and suffering, and the family of the injured person can sue as well for damages such as loss of support or companionship.

What does it mean to sell or give alcohol to someone “contrary to law?” For one, sale of alcohol to minors is prohibited by Alabama Code 6-5-70. Also, any violation of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board, such as serving alcohol in a dry country, would also be “contrary to law.” Notably ABC Board Regulation 20-X-6-.02(4) prohibits serving alcohol to any person who appears to be intoxicated.

This last provision is likely the one most cited for dram shop liability in Alabama. It is certainly foreseeable that an overly intoxicated person might assault another person without provocation or cause a serious car accident if drinking and driving. In cases such as these, the bar, restaurant or liquor store which furnished the alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person can be held strictly liable for the damages which ensue.

In addition to compensatory damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, the bar could be liable for exemplary or punitive damages as well.

The attorneys at McPhillips Shinbaum thoroughly investigate every case and work to hold every responsible party accountable for their negligence or misconduct. This includes restaurants, bars and retail establishments which furnish alcohol to minors or visibly intoxicated persons with disastrous results. If you or a loved one were harmed in such a situation, call on the experienced Alabama personal injury and wrongful death lawyers at McPhillips Shinbaum for a free consultation.