In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, people often engage in drinking at establishments (bars, restaurants, private parties etc.) that serve alcohol. While these establishments can offer an entertaining and enjoyable experience, individuals tend become overly intoxicated to the point where they should no longer be served alcohol. Unfortunately when situations like this occur, establishments that serve alcohol can potentially be legally responsible if the individual(s) continues to be served and injures another person. It is essential that any individual that owns or operates an establishment that serves alcohol, know how Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop law works in order to prevent legal liabilities from occurring in the future and how having an experienced attorney can assist them.
Pennsylvania’s Liquor Code
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it is illegal for ANY establishment with a liquor license to furnish alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 OR furnish alcohol to an individual who is “visibly intoxicated”. Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop Law provides that, any establishment that furnishes alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron, and that individual injures someone as a result of their intoxication, the liquor license holder can be held liable.
Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop Law
Under this law, an establishment with a liquor license can be held liable for the actions of a visibly intoxicated individual that was served alcohol. Generally, actions arising out of this liability include:
- Bar fights,
- Vehicular accidents,
- Violent behavior resulting in injury to another individual.
In order to be held liable under this act, two things must be proven:
- The liquor license holder violated the law by furnishing alcohol to a minor and/or visibly intoxicated person
- The liquor license holder’s violation of the law caused the injuries and/or damages
It is important to note that, in order to be successful in suing the establishment, the injured party must show that, the furnishing of the alcohol to the visibly intoxicated person was the direct cause of the injury. In many cases, the causal connection may be difficult to prove IF the intoxicated individual continued to drink more alcohol after he left the establishment.
It is the Plaintiff’s burden of proof to show that the individual was visibly intoxicated while he was being furnished alcohol. Generally, in a dram shop case, the Plaintiff will present evidence such as:
- the slurred speech of the individual
- the drunken actions of the individual while he was at the establishment
- eye witness testimony pertaining to the individual’s apparent intoxication
- glassy and/or bloodshot eyes
- his ability to walk (staggering, stumbling, falling)
- his overall behavior (shouting, cursing, arguing etc.)
*** In many cases, an expert witness can be used to show that the individual’s blood alcohol content was at such a level that they would be acting in a visibly intoxicated state.
Facing a Dram Shop Liability Lawsuit?
The Law Office of Vincent J. Caputo is ready to help you through this process. Please contact us with any question about your specific case. Our experienced staff and attorneys will ensure that your needs, concerns, and questions will be handled in a professional and courteous manner.