The Phoenix DUI Law Blog

Dram Shop Laws and DUI Liability

In too many DUI cases, someone other than the driver gets hurt or even killed. But under Arizona’s dram shop laws, the driver isn’t the only one responsible.

Criminally speaking, only the driver will face charges. The criminal system generally punishes the person who was involved in the crime, not the person who unknowingly contributed.

But when it comes to a civil case for damages, whether that is hospital bills or wrongful death, the victim and his family can sue the person who sold the alcohol too.

Dram shop is an old term for any establishment with a liquor license. That includes both bars and liquor stores and really any store that can sell alcohol.

Those businesses have a responsibility to sell alcohol responsibly. Part of that includes not serving alcohol to someone who is already visibly intoxicated.

What? You thought the bar stopped serving you because you were getting belligerent? That might have been part of it, but they’re also required to do it.

Even if nothing goes wrong, the bar or store could lose its state-issued liquor license for over serving customers. But if the customer is involved in a DUI the store can have serious consequences.

Arizona is one of many states that have dram shop laws to allow victims to target the person who sold the alcohol.

If an establishment knowing sells alcohol to someone who is already visibly intoxicated, and that person goes on to injury someone else, the store or bar can be liable for those injuries.

In a civil lawsuit, that could mean paying all the damages if the person charged with the DUI isn’t able to pay. That’s in addition to the danger of losing their liquor license.

But it was only one person who over served the customer? Why would the whole company be punished?

Legally, we generally hold employers liable for employee actions so long as the actions took place within the typical confines of employment.

For a bartender or liquor store clerk, typical duties include selling alcohol. That means the business can be held liable.

While this law is partly designed to punish stores that don’t take the risks of selling alcohol seriously, it’s also meant for victims. DUI-related injuries are often expensive; dram shop laws make it easier to get compensation for that.

Related Resources: