What Is Dram Shop Liability in Florida?

March 22, 2024 | Jarrett Blakeley
What Is Dram Shop Liability in Florida?

Imagine enjoying a night out with friends, only to have it turn tragic due to someone else's intoxication. If a drunk driver injured you or a loved one, reach out to an experienced DUI attorney. In Florida, this partially comes under the purview of dram shop liability.

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What Is Dram Shop Liability?

A bartender skillfully fills a glass with frothy draught beer.

The name “dram shop” might conjure images of a quaint, old-timey shop selling drams (a small unit of liquid) of alcohol, but in legal terms, it's much more serious than that. Dram Shop laws pertain to cases where a business sells alcohol to someone who then causes harm to others because they are intoxicated.

Essentially, these laws allow victims of accidents involving intoxicated individuals to seek compensation from the business that provided the alcohol, under certain conditions, depending on the jurisdiction.

Florida’s Dram Shop Laws

Florida's approach to Dram Shop liability is somewhat more limited than that of other states.

Here, the law, as outlined in Florida Statute 768.125, specifies that a person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person except under two specific circumstances:

  1. Sale to a Person Habitually Addicted to Alcohol: If the establishment knowingly serves alcohol to someone who is habitually addicted to it, they can be held liable for any damages caused by that person's intoxication.
  2. Serving Alcohol to Minors: If an establishment serves alcohol to a person under the legal drinking age (21 in Florida), and that minor causes injury or damage as a result of their intoxication, the business can be held liable.

Dram Shop Scenarios

Let's explore some scenarios where Dram Shop law may come into play in Florida:

Serving Alcohol to Minors

  • A Scenario at a Party: Imagine a local bar decides to overlook checking IDs one busy Friday night, and a group of high school seniors manage to buy drinks. If one of the minors drives home intoxicated and causes an accident, injuring themselves or others, the establishment could be held liable under Florida's Dram Shop law for serving alcohol to underage individuals.
  • A Wedding Reception Gone Wrong: A catering company fails to properly verify the ages of guests consuming alcohol at a wedding reception. A minor guest becomes intoxicated and, on their way home, causes a collision. The catering company could be held responsible for the damages resulting from the accident.

Serving Persons Habitually Addicted to Alcohol

  • A Known Issue at a Local Pub: A regular patron at a neighborhood tavern is well-known for his habitual alcohol addiction, including to the staff. Despite this, he is served alcohol and later causes an accident or engages in violent behavior, resulting in injuries to others. The tavern could be found liable for continuing to serve someone they knew or should have known was habitually addicted to alcohol.
  • A Liquor Store Incident: A liquor store consistently sells alcohol to an individual known in the community (and to the store's employees) for their alcohol addiction. If this individual, after purchasing and consuming the alcohol, is involved in an incident that causes harm to others, the store might be liable under Dram Shop laws for their role in furnishing alcohol.

When Do Dram Shop Laws Apply?

Dram Shop liability often comes into play in drunk driving accident cases where accident victims seek to hold establishments liable for serving the driver who got behind the wheel, drove drunk, and caused an accident. 

However, the scope of these laws extends beyond just those situations. Dram Shop laws can apply in any instance where an establishment knowingly serves a habitual addicted drinker and that individual causes harm or damage.

The application of Dram Shop laws includes, but is not limited to, the following scenarios:

  • Assaults and Fights: If an individual becomes intoxicated at an establishment and then assaults another person, causing injury, the establishment could potentially be held liable under Dram Shop laws if it can be shown that they negligently served alcohol to the assailant.
  • Accidents Involving Pedestrians: If an intoxicated person leaves an establishment and causes an accident that injures a pedestrian, the business that served the alcohol might be held responsible for the pedestrian's injuries.
  • Property Damage: In cases where an intoxicated patron causes property damage after being served alcohol, the establishment could potentially face liability for the damages under Dram Shop laws, depending on the circumstances and the state's specific statutes.

Why Dram Shop Liability Matters

You might wonder why these laws are significant. On a broader scale, they are part of efforts to encourage responsible alcohol service and consumption.

By holding businesses accountable for their role in serving alcohol, Dram Shop laws aim to reduce alcohol-related harm in the community. For individuals affected by the actions of an intoxicated person, these laws provide a potential path for seeking compensation for their injuries and losses.

Challenges of Dram Shop Liability 

A drink with ice, handcuffs, gavel, and car keys suggesting DUI consequences.

It's important to understand that pursuing a Dram Shop liability case in Florida is not straightforward. Proving that an establishment knowingly served alcohol to a minor or someone habitually addicted to alcohol can be complex. It often requires thorough investigation, gathering of evidence, and legal knowledge.

For a Dram Shop case to succeed in Florida, it must be demonstrated that the establishment knowingly served alcohol to a minor or to someone habitually addicted to alcohol. This can be a high bar to meet and often requires substantial evidence.

Many establishments implement strict policies, like mandatory ID checks and training for staff to recognize signs of addiction, to mitigate their risk of liability under these laws.

What is Social Host Liability in Florida

Another related concept worth understanding is Social Host liability. This legal principle can affect individuals who host social gatherings where alcohol is served. Let's break down what social host liability means in the Sunshine State and how it compares to dram shop laws.

Florida’s Social Host vs. Dram Shop Liability

Social Host liability refers to the responsibility of a host who serves alcohol at a party or event, especially in their home, when an intoxicated guest causes harm to others. Unlike Dram Shop laws that target commercial entities, Social Host liability focuses on non-commercial settings.

In Florida, social host liability is more limited than in some other states. It primarily centers on the provision of alcohol to minors. A social host can be held liable for damages if they knowingly serve alcohol to a person under the legal drinking age of 21, and that minor subsequently causes injury or damage due to being intoxicated

However, when it comes to adults, the law does not typically hold social hosts liable for the actions of their guests once intoxicated, provided those guests are of legal drinking age.

If a drunk driver caused an accident that injured you or a loved one, you may have grounds to hold the intoxicated driver liable for your damages in a personal injury claim and possibly the establishment that served them under Florida’s dram shop or social host laws. 

Given the complexities of proving such cases, having legal assistance is crucial. An experienced attorney can help navigate the legal landscape, gather necessary evidence, and build a strong case to support a claim under the Dram Shop Law in Florida.

Contact a Trusted Lawyer at Blakeley Law Firm Today

If you or a loved one suffered due to the actions of an intoxicated person, you may be entitled to recover compensation not only from the drunk driver who caused the accident but also from the establishment or host who served them alcoholic beverages. At Blakeley Law Firm, we understand the intricacies of Florida's Dram Shop and Social Host laws and have the experience to navigate these challenging cases. 

While these laws in Florida have their limitations, they play a vital role in promoting safety and responsibility when it comes to the sale and consumption of alcohol. If you are facing a situation where dram shop or social host laws come into play, remember that you don't have to go through it alone.

Our personal injury attorneys at Blakeley Law Firm is ready to stand by your side and fight for your rights. Contact us today at (954) 253-9445 or through our online form for your free consultation.

Jarrett Blakeley

Firm founder Jarrett Blakeley fights to get maximum compensation for all of Blakeley Law Firm’s clients. He has been practicing law since 2006 and takes great pride in representing the rights of injured individuals against the insurance companies and the law firms that represent them. He has successfully represented thousands of clients and recovered tens of millions of dollars on their behalf. Mr. Blakeley strives to give all of his clients personal attention and maximum effort and seeks to instill a firm culture that prioritizes customer service and compassion for the injured over all else. Fighting for the injured is Jarrett Blakeley’s greatest passion and he looks forward to fighting for the injured for the rest of his career.

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