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What Is a Dram Shop Law?

A dram shop law is a type of statute which holds any business establishment strictly liable for selling alcoholic beverages to a person who is obviously intoxicated. The purpose of dram shop laws or acts is to increase the responsibility of those who make profits by tendering alcoholic beverages to guests. The word “dram” refers to a British unit of measurement for serving alcohol.

Dram shop laws usually deal with prohibiting alcohol sales to intoxicated persons, but sometimes they may also cover the sale of alcohol to minors, as well as issues with licenses and identification. Most states have some form of these types of laws, but they vary widely between jurisdictions.

What Is California’s Dram Shop Law?

Dram Shop laws in California are extremely limited. Recent California legislation has removed the strict liability for businesses who serve alcohol to patrons. It should be noted that this limitation only applies in civil court. Criminal law penalties may still apply to businesses who serve alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons. It should also be noted that the limitation on civil penalties protects licensed alcohol vendors but provides no protection to hosts of parties or other social events where alcohol is served.

Despite California’s limitation on holding liquor stores or bars responsible for selling alcohol to persons who are obviously intoxicated, California establishments still may be held liable for serving alcohol to a minor who subsequently injures another person as a result of being intoxicated.

Why Is There No Civil Dram Shop Liability in California?

The rationale behind the California legislature’s decision to limit civil liability for serving alcohol to an intoxicated individual is that it is often difficult to determine who is at fault if an intoxicated person gets into an accident after consuming alcohol. Strict liability implies that the business establishment must have caused the accident by serving the person alcohol.

Nevertheless, California case law has held that the consumption of alcohol, and not the serving of alcohol, is the proximate cause in the case of an accident. Thus, the sale of alcohol by bars and liquor stores in California is not considered to be the cause of an automobile accident.

Do I Need a California Lawyer for a Dram Shop Claim?
Whether you are a business owner or a party or event host, it is important to retain a lawyer if you have been charged with negligently providing alcohol in civil or criminal court. This is especially true if the incident involves the sale of alcohol to a minor.

Dram shop violations, like many other areas of law, can be complicated. Hiring an experienced lawyer can help ensure that you meet all the various court requirements and deadlines for your claim. A qualified lawyer will help you understand the legal basis for any claim against you and can also help you resolve the matter as quickly as possible.