Florida Dram Shop Law Limited to Small Number of Injury/ Wrongful Death Cases

A man in New Jersey is suing two bars he alleged served him alcohol in the hours before he was involved in a single-vehicle motorcycle accident in which he was seriously injured. According to news reports, the 28-year-old plaintiff alleges he was downing Tequila at two local bars, and left both sites intoxicated. Around 3:20 a.m., upon leaving the second site, he reportedly crashed his motorcycle, suffering a severe leg injury. His blood-alcohol level was below the 0.08 threshold, but he claims he was still impaired (an instance our own Florida law recognizes as possible in F.S. 316.193). Further, he says his breath-alcohol test wasn’t given until several hours after the crash. His criminal charge was dismissed. drunk driving accident

There are of course many people who take the stance that drunk drivers deserve what they get. We won’t dispute that in some cases, but as drunk driving accident lawyers, we used this example to point out the viability of such a claim here in the Sunshine State. Based on the facts we know of this case, it would not succeed in Florida – and not because drunk drivers can’t sue for injuries. They can, but only in limited circumstances. The same in fact is true of drunk driving accident victims when it comes to third parties.

It all comes down to Florida’s dram shop law, found in F.S. 768.125. A dram shop law is the avenue through which drunk driving accident victims (including, in some cases, the driver) can seek damages from the bar, restaurant or vendor that served alcohol to the drunk driver. 

State dram shop laws vary widely in this regard, with some allowing alcohol vendors to be held liable simply for serving someone who appeared to be intoxicated.

In Florida, it’s much more limiting. Here, the law generally disfavors third-party liability for the negligence of drunk drivers. There are only two exceptions:

  • The driver was underage (20 or younger);
  • The driver was habitually addicted to alcohol, and the establishment/ employees knew about it and served them anyway.

The first is pretty easy to prove. You’re either underage or you aren’t. Still, underage drinkers aren’t the ones committing the bulk of drunk driving accidents in Florida.

The second exception occurs under fairly limiting circumstances. It requires that not only is the individual in question habitually addicted to alcohol, but that the establishment and/ or employees know about it. That will typically limited to cases in which an individual is a “regular” at a bar, or if there is proof of a conversation wherein the individual or someone else explicitly informed the establishment/ employees of the individual’s alcohol addiction.

In New Jersey, where the allegedly impaired motorcyclist is suing the two bars, the dram shop law holds that an establishment can be liable for serving an individual it knew or should have known was visibly intoxicated and that he could or would cause bodily injury to himself or others.

Again, state law varies widely, but a drunk driver in Florida could sue a bar for damages if the aforementioned statutory exceptions applied.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Liability for injury or damage resulting from intoxication, F.S. 768.125

More Blog Entries:

Report: Florida Motorcycle Accident Deaths Up 30 Percent, April 20, 2017, Drunk Driving Injury Lawyer Blog

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