Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney P.C.

Bar liability for drunk drivers

Connecticut has been cracking down on drunk drivers for many years. It is a leading cause of injury and death on our roads and it is entirely preventable. But one of the most important tools to fight drunk driving is very old. Bars are liable for the mayhem that results from serving someone who is drunk.

If you or a loved one have been the victim of a drunk driver, this is one way of recovering something after the tragedy. In general, it puts all places which serve alcohol on notice that they are potentially responsible for the actions of their customers if they have become intoxicated.

Dram shop law

The law is called a "Dram shop law," and it has been around for centuries. Any place which sells alcohol is required to carry insurance for the liability that they assume under this law for the actions of their patrons when drunk. In Connecticut, it is Section 30-102 of state law.

It specifies that damages up to $250,000 can be recovered for injuries sustained from a customer of any establishment that:

  • Sold alcohol to a person
  • That person was intoxicated at the time the alcohol was sold
  • The intoxication was directly related to the damages this person caused

This law covers what is commonly called "overserving" of alcohol to people who are already drunk. The precise standard for "intoxicated" is always the main point of contention.

Refinement by court cases

Over the years, many cases have given greater definition to the question of intoxication and when a bar is liable under the dram shop law.

In the case of O'Dell vs. Kozee, 307 Conn. 231 (2012), the Connecticut Supreme Court clarified the standard of being 'visibly intoxicated" to mean only at the time of service. In this it re-affirmed that the definition of intoxicated means visibly drunk to someone who is willing to state that as a witness. It could, indeed, be anyone present who is willing to be that witness.

What this means to you

If you or a loved one have been injured by a drunk driver, the Connecticut dram shop law is one way that you might recover some damages. Even if the person who caused your injury has no resources, the establishment that served them is going to have insurance to cover their liability.

It takes an attorney experienced with dram shop law to make the case, however, and find the witnesses required. You do have a limited time to make a claim, so time is of the essence after a tragic encounter with a drunk driver.

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Bridgeport, CT 06604

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