Most states in American provide a third party the opportunity to sue a bar, nightclub or hotel for injuries occurring from an alcohol-related incident. In New York, these personal injury claims fall under The Dram Shop Act. The statute, found under the state’s General Obligations Law section 11-101, explains that a business may be liable in the accident.
According to the law, a business and its employees have the responsibility of refusing to give a person liquor if he or she believes that person has had too much to drink. They must also thoroughly examine the driver’s license of someone they may believe to be under 21.
Stipulations of the law
There are two parts to this law:
- The business knowingly and unlawfully sold or assisted in giving liquor to an intoxicated person.
- The establishment knowingly caused intoxication by selling alcohol to a person under the age of 21.
Proof of liability
Knowing those two provisions, a plaintiff must prove three things:
- There is a “reasonable connection” between the intoxication and the injury.
- The business unlawfully sold or provided the liquor to the intoxicated person.
- The business caused or contributed to the person’s intoxication.
If the plaintiff can prove these elements, the court may hold the establishment responsible for the person’s injuries or death. The most challenging aspect of this may be to establish the “visibly intoxicated” rule. New York courts allow for a person to submit circumstantial evidence for this in the form of expert and eyewitness testimony.
The liable party may be able to defend itself by asking:
- Did the intoxicated person go to another drinking establishment after leaving?
- Were the signs of intoxication detectable?
Parties who may sue
The only parties who may sue are those injured or the estate of the deceased. The statute does not allow the person who caused the injury to sue the liable party for his or her injuries. If the intoxicated person dies, the dependents may sue for loss of support. In all cases, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of injury or death.