Pennsylvania's Dram Shop Laws and Liability

glass of alcohol and car keys

A dram shop is a legal term used in the United States to refer to a bar, tavern, or similar establishment that sells alcoholic beverages. Traditionally, the word “dram” referred to a unit of liquid in shops where spirits were sold by that measurement.

Dram shop liability laws were passed in several states to help hold dram shops liable for the sale of alcohol to visibly intoxicated people or minors who later cause the injury or death of other people as a result of drinking and driving.

In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Liquor Code, § 4-493(1) provides the basis for dram shop liability laws regarding negligent service of alcohol by those with liquor licenses. According to the code, it’s illegal for any person employed in the sale or furnishing of liquor or alcoholic beverages to serve any visibly drunk person, mentally ill individual, minor, or known habitual drunkard.

According to § 47 P.S. 4-497, however, the server is not liable unless they gave the customer alcohol when the customer was visibly intoxicated. The law states that by serving a person who may be visibly intoxicated, the owner or employee of an establishment is committing a breach of duty to other patrons and individuals outside the bar. For example, if a bartender gives one more drink to a customer who seems to be slurring his words and stumbling, the customer could later leave the bar and drive home. If that drunk customer crashes into another car or injures a pedestrian, the bartender could be held partly liable for the damages. In order to bring a dram shop claim, it must be proven that the improper service of alcohol had a direct link to the accident.

If you’ve been harmed by a drunk driver, don’t hesitate to call us. Our experienced Harrisburg car accident attorneys have handled thousands of car accident cases and can help you review police reports, medical records, and all other resources necessary to determine the fair value of your case. Car accidents can lead to extensive medical bills and potential lost wages for recovery time. These are costs you shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s negligence. Talk to our personal injury attorneys today about your case. Contact us at (888) 286-2850 or fill out our online form for a free consultation.

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