Dramshop Law Part of the Temperance Movement

  • May 17, 2012
  • DUI

The dramshop law dates back to the Temperance Movement of the mid-1800’s. The basic principle is that anyone who serves alcohol holds some liability to the safety of others as a result of serving the beverages. Therefore, damages resulting from serving someone too much alcohol, rendering them impaired, makes the establishment that served it liable for the resulting actions.

In order for that establishment to be held accountable, there must be proof of their negligence regarding the knowledge of the offender being a habitual drinker or already being drunk at the time they were sold the liquor. The first law of this sort came in Illinois in 1872. By the 1990’s, just over one hundred years later, more than 40 states had passed dramshop laws or court rulings that made a commercial server or seller of alcohol liable if the customer caused an accident or injury once they left the seller’s establishment.

With the increase in these acts being passed, there was a dramatic increase in lawsuits involving drinking establishments. As the victims began winning settlements, the liability insurance for sellers of liquor became increasingly expensive.

Many establishments have made changes to try to combat the negative effects of such behavior. There has been a decrease in “happy hours” and late night operation. Some even offer free breath analysis, designated driver programs and special training for the servers as a way of protecting both themselves and the public at large.

Alabama statutes say that a person who is injured by an intoxicated person or in consequence of a person’s intoxication is granted a right of action against a defendant selling, giving, or otherwise disposing of to another, contrary to the provisions of law, liquors or beverages. The statute does not require a plaintiff to prove that his injury or damage was proximately caused by the sale or disposition of liquors or beverages, but only that he was damaged as a consequence of the intoxication resulting from the sale or disposition.