Liquor Liability & Dram Shop Attorney Representing all of NJ and PA
In Pennsylvania, a person injured by a drunk driver can bring a claim against the bar or tavern that served alcohol to the drunk driver. The law in Pennsylvania holds that a bar, tavern, restaurant or business licensed to serve alcohol can be held responsible for any harm done by the drunk customer. The law generally requires that for a bar to be liable, it must have served alcohol to the customer while the customer was visibly intoxicated, or visibly drunk.
In one recent case, John represented the family of a man injured in a drunk driving accident. John successfully brought a dram shop action against the bar that served the driver while he was drunk. The man then left the bar and drove his car and caused a single car accident. The bar initially denied liability, solely blaming the driver for driving drunk. John’s experience as a Philadelphia dram shop and liquor liability lawyer led to a recovery against the bar for $250,000.00.
If a bar or business serves a minor alcohol and the minor causes an accident, the bar may be held responsible even if the minor was not visibly drunk while served.
“Dram shop” or “liquor liability” refers to this legal liability of a bar, tavern, restaurant or liquor licensee that serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who then injures another. The most common example of this type of case is when a bar serves alcohol to a visibly drunk person and that person then drives his car and causes an car accident. The person injured in the accident can potentially sue the bar that served the driver if the driver was visibly intoxicated at the time.
The phrase “dram shop” is an old one, and traditionally refers to a bar or shop where liquor was sold by the “dram,” which is small amount of liquid. The phrase may be used to refer to bars, taverns, and other businesses that serve alcohol to customers.
John Mattiacci has handled several dram shop cases in Pennsylvania, some of which unfortunately involved fatal accidents. In handling these cases, he has learned what evidence is most important in successfully bringing dram shop cases.
Some of the most important evidence in a dram shop case is that the bar served a customer while that customer was visibly intoxicated. Direct evidence that a person is “visibly intoxicated” includes eyewitness accounts that the person:
- Was slurring his or her speech;
- Smelled of alcohol;
- Had red or bloodshot eyes;
- Was staggering or had difficulty standing or walking;
- Was loud, boisterous or speaking louder than normal; and
- Admitted that he or she was drinking heavily.
Direct observations of these types of signs of visible intoxication are incredibly useful when proving liability against a bar, restaurant or tavern. Additionally, other evidence may be useful to establish that a person must have been visibly intoxicated while being served alcohol. This type of evidence often involves a measurement of the intoxicated person’s blood alcohol content in what is referred to as “relation back” evidence.
Relation back evidence often requires the use of an expert, such as a toxicologist, that uses the analysis of a person’s blood alcohol test results to prove that the driver would have appeared intoxicated during the time he or she was served at the bar, tavern or restaurant.
While relation back evidence and proof that a person’s blood alcohol content was high are helpful in dram shop cases, the best evidence is direct testimony that a person exhibited visible signs of intoxication while being served. Stating that a person appeared intoxicated only after being served at a bar or after an accident has taken place may not be sufficient to prove liability against the bar, tavern or restaurant.
John Mattiacci has experience handling dram shop and liquor liability cases in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. John previously worked at a prestigious defense firm in Philadelphia, where he helped defend bars against liquor liability and dram shop claims. This experience was incredibly useful in helping John understand how bars attempt to avoid liability for serving a patron when the patron is visibly drunk. John is now able to use that experience on behalf of his injured clients.
Dram shop and liquor liability cases do not only involve car accidents. Our firm has successfully sued bars for serving alcohol to visibly drunk persons who then caused a bar fight or physically injured another person in an assault. Any incident in which a drunk person causes harm to another can potentially lead to a dram shop case. So long as the person was served while visibly drunk by a licensed bar or business, a potential dram shop or liquor liability claim exists.
Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board RAMP Certification
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has developed a training program for businesses that are licensed to serve alcohol. This program is designed to teach business and their employees how to serve alcohol responsibly. The program is called RAMP, which stands for “Responsible Alcohol Management Program.”
Any business that is licensed to serve alcohol in Pennsylvania would benefit from RAMP training and certification. RAMP explains how to:
- Detect signs of impairment and intoxication, and effectively cut off service to a customer who has had too much to drink
- Identify underage individuals, and deter minors from coming into your establishment in the first place
- Detect altered, counterfeit, and borrowed identification
- Avoid unnecessary liability
- Help reduce alcohol-related problems (underage drinking, vehicle crashes, fights, etc) in your community
More information about RAMP may be found at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s website.
Contact our experienced liquor liability attorneys today to determine if you have a dram shop claim, or claim in any of our other practice areas of law. We are here to work for you!