What is dram shop liability?
If a drunk driver gets into an accident and hurts or kills another driver or pedestrian, they are 1) liable for damages, 2) likely to be hit with punitive damages, and 3) likely to be facing criminal charges and a prison sentence.
But what about the bar that served them? Doesn’t the bar or restaurant share the responsibility if they continued to serve a patron who was already drunk, and the patron then leaves the bar and kills someone?
SC’s courts have authorized what is called dram shop liability in some situations, allowing drunk driving victims or their survivors to hold establishments accountable for over-serving drunk drivers.
What is Dram Shop Liability in SC?
South Carolina does not have a dram shop law per se, but SC’s courts have allowed drunk driving victims to sue bars, restaurants, or other establishments when they violate our state’s criminal laws regarding the sale of alcohol.
SC courts have approved dram shop liability when an establishment sells alcohol to a minor, when an establishment sells alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person, and when an individual gives alcohol to a minor (social host liability) when it results in someone’s injury or death.
SC Code Sections 61-4-580(A)(1) and 61-4-50 prohibit the sale of alcohol to anyone who is under twenty-one years of age. If an establishment sells alcohol to a minor and the minor then hurts themselves or someone else, that establishment is looking at civil dram shop liability to the injured parties as well as the potential for criminal charges against the person who made the sale.
Similarly, 61-4-580(A)(2) prohibits the sale of alcohol to “an intoxicated person,” and the courts have held that, when an establishment’s employee sells alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated, the establishment is liable to anyone who is injured or killed as a result.
Dram shop liability may cover injuries to the person who received the alcohol, and it covers injuries to third parties who are injured or killed by the person who received the alcohol. What are some of the specific circumstances where SC courts have approved dram shop liability?
When Does Dram Shop Liability Apply in SC?
SC courts have approved dram shop liability where establishments have sold alcohol to minors, where establishments have sold alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons, and where individuals have provided alcohol to minors at their homes or at parties.
Christiansen v. Campbell – Liability to the Drunk Person
In Christiansen v. Campbell, the S.C. Court of Appeals authorized a cause of action for dram shop liability where the defendant continued to serve the plaintiff alcohol after the plaintiff had become visibly intoxicated. When the plaintiff left the bar, he was hit by a car as he attempted to cross the street and was seriously injured.
The plaintiff sued both the driver of the car and the bar – the Court of Appeals held that, because the bar continued to serve him after he was visibly intoxicated, they were liable for his injuries when he stumbled out of their establishment and into the street.
Daley v. Ward – Liability to Third Parties
In Daley v. Ward, the S.C. Court of Appeals held that a bar, when they continued to serve a patron after he was visibly intoxicated, was liable to a third party when the patron later slammed into the back of the third party’s car.
Although the bar and the server insisted that it was their policy not to serve intoxicated patrons, and the bartenders insisted they would not have served him if he was drunk (although they also said they did not remember seeing him), there was sufficient evidence that they served him while he was visibly intoxicated where he testified that he had nine beers at the bar, he did not drink anywhere else, and there was a video that showed he was intoxicated immediately after the accident.
Jamison v. the Pantry – Liability for Selling Alcohol to a Minor
It’s not necessary for the patron to sit down in a bar or restaurant and drink on the premises – in Jamison v. the Pantry, the SC Court of Appeals found dram shop liability where a convenience store sold alcohol to a minor just before he wrecked his car, killing two people and injuring two others:
… The Pantry’s sale of beer to DeBruhl, a minor, in violation of Sections 61-9-40 and 61-9-410 of the South Carolina Code of Laws (1976) (Rev. 1990) was a proximate cause of the injuries suffered by Jamison and the Ruffs. It was reasonably foreseeable that a nineteen-year-old who was sold a case of beer by a convenience store in violation of statutes would consume a portion of the beer, would become intoxicated, would drive an automobile, would collide with another vehicle, and would injure or kill someone.
Garren v. Cummings – Liability of Social Hosts
Are “social hosts” who give alcohol to a person liable when that person crashes and hurts or kills someone?
In Garren v. Cummings, the SC Court of Appeals said no – if the person was an adult, the social host did not violate any criminal laws by providing the alcohol and there is no dram shop liability:
We are in accord with the general common law view and therefore hold that a social host incurs no liability to third parties when he serves alcohol to his adult guests. The proper remedy for a third party injured as a result of the guest’s intoxication is to sue the guest who injured him. If an additional remedy is to be provided against the host, it should be done by the legislature, not the courts.
The point is that dram shop liability in SC is based on a violation of the criminal laws – whether that is selling alcohol to a minor or selling alcohol to an intoxicated person.
When a social host intentionally provides alcohol to a minor, however, the host may be liable for any damages that the minor causes when he or she leaves, because it is against the law to provide alcohol to minors (with few exceptions).
Dram Shop and Drunk Driving Accident Attorney in Conway, SC
If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed by the reckless actions of a drunk driver, get an experienced plaintiff’s attorney on your case immediately who can investigate the crash, gather the evidence that you will need to prove your case, and get maximum compensation for you whenever possible either in a settlement or jury trial.
Call Johnny Gardner Law today to find out how we can help.