Dram Shop Liability in Pennsylvania–When Can You Sue a Bar or Workplace?

If a driver is intoxicated and causes a motor vehicle accident with injuries, the victim will likely have a valid personal injury claim against that driver. If the injuries are severe or fatal, there might not be sufficient insurance policy limits to cover the damages. If that happens, the law in Pennsylvania law allows an injury victim to pursue damages from other people or entities pursuant to the Pennsylvania Dram Shop Law.

What’s a Dram Shop?

The term “dram shop” came over to America with the Mayflower. It generally describes a commercial establishment that’s engaged in the sale of alcoholic beverages. Not only does the statute contemplate bars, but it also includes services like catering businesses that provide alcoholic beverages at events and private parties in or around Philadelphia.

The Applicable Statute

Pennsylvania’s dram shop statute is found at section 4-497 of the Pennsylvania Liquor Code. It provides that the seller of alcoholic beverages may be held liable for injuries or deaths that were caused by “visibly intoxicated” or underage customers if the seller sold or furnished alcoholic beverages to those people. The legal age for the consumption of alcoholic beverages in Pennsylvania is 21 years old. The statute also includes people who are “insane,” “habitual drunkards” or people of “known untempered habits.”  The two most common scenarios for dram shop actions are auto accidents and batteries after leaving a bar.

Can an Employer be Sued Under the Pennsylvania Dram Shop Statute?

The general rule in Pennsylvania is that those who serve alcoholic beverages at a private party who is not acting as part of a business that sells such beverages cannot be sued under Pennsylvania’s dram shop laws. That’s a big reason why many people and businesses have private events at licensed commercial establishments. Any dram shop liability would likely be attributable to the commercial establishment rather than a host, business or employer.

Two Dead and Two Injured in Bristol Interstate 95 Crash

A 37-year-old Bristol Township man has been charged with two counts of murder in the third degree, aggravated assault, homicide by vehicle, aggravated assault by vehicle and several other charges in an early December, 2019 crash after two people died and two others were injured in an alleged drunken driving crash. The tragedy occurred on Interstate 95 near the Bristol Township connector when the man is reported to have slammed into the rear of a minivan. Apparently, the van was having mechanical issues, and the driver was moving slowly on the highway with the van’s emergency flashers activated. The driver who allegedly caused the crash had reportedly been drinking at a company function in Center City and stopped off at a bar on the way home. The police investigation into the crash showed that the man was traveling at a minimum speed of 106 mph at the time of impact. His blood alcohol content was reportedly between .151 and .169.

It’s highly likely that damages in the above case will exceed the policy limit of the allegedly intoxicated driver. Given the fact that Pennsylvania’s dram shop law recognizes a chain of responsibility for intoxicated persons, both entities that provided intoxicating beverages to the allegedly drunken driver might be held liable for the victims’ injuries and deaths.

Contact a Philadelphia Accident Lawyer

If you were the victim of a drunk driver, or if a family member was killed by one anywhere in or around Philadelphia, contact our offices at your earliest convenience. You can arrange for a free consultation with an experienced and aggressive Philadelphia car accident lawyer from our offices. Your questions will be answered, and we can explain all of your legal alternatives to you.