What Is Dram Shop Liability?

Dram Shop Laws Can Cause Business Owners And Social Hosts To Share Responsibility For Others’ DUI Accidents

When many people hear the phrase "dram shop law," they have no idea what it refers to. It is an unfamiliar legal term that has its origin in 1700s England. At that time, dram shops sold gin by the dram, a measurement that is roughly one and a half ounces.

Today, Ohio’s dram shop law contains rules regulating the liability of businesses and hosts that serve alcohol to customers or guests.

What Are The Provisions Of Ohio's Dram Shop Law?

Under Ohio's dram shop law, a victim of a drunk guest or patron may bring a civil suit against the business that sold or host that served the alcoholic beverage. This law covers property damage, injury and death. Liability depends somewhat on where an injury occurred:

  • On premises: The damages to property, health or life happened at the premises where the alcohol consumption occurred.
  • Off premises: Damages occurred at another location but were the result of a violation of the dram shop law.

In both of these cases, injuries and death can be the result of, for example, an accident while inebriated, an attack, motor vehicle accident or altercation.

Dram Shop Act Violation Consequences

Dram shop laws vary from state to state with respect to definitions of terms such as intoxication, guests and/or patrons. On the other hand, most have an "obvious intoxication" test that questions whether a seller or server of alcohol knew, or should have known, that a patron was intoxicated to the point that more alcohol consumption could cause danger to himself or others.

In Ohio, violations of dram shop ordinances by business establishments are considered only minor offenses, and offenders are usually subjected to fines ranging from $25 to $100. However, when a dram shop violation is part of a case involving disabling injuries or wrongful death sustained in a related DWI case, the matter can become very serious.

What Is Social Host Liability?

More than half the states in America have enacted social host liability laws. These laws hold hosts potentially liable if they serve alcohol to a minor who then becomes involved in an accident that causes injury to a third party. Some other states hold social hosts potentially liable under their existing dram shop laws. In Ohio, the only liability for a host who provides alcohol to a guest is if the guest is under the legal age for drinking (i.e., 21 years old).

With their in-depth knowledge of Ohio vehicle and dram shop laws, our attorneys are equipped to aggressively assert your interests and secure for you all the benefits and protections the law provides. Please call us at 855-444-6651 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We have five Ohio law offices conveniently located in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Chesterland and Chagrin Falls.