Understanding New York State’s Liquor Liability “Dram Shop” Law
In New York, we enforce what is known as the “Dram Shop” law. The word “dram” actually refers to a small unit of liquor. Under this law, it is the duty of establishments that serve liquor to do so responsibly. Said establishments cannot sell liquor to anyone under the age of 21, or to anyone who appears to already be visibly intoxicated. Some indicators of visible intoxication are slurred or unnecessarily loud speech, inability to stand straight, glassy eyes, aggressive behavior, droopy eyelids, lack of focus or eye contact, etc. Failure to responsibly serve liquor can leave the establishment liable for their patron’s behavior.
For instance, if you are struck by a vehicle operated by an individual who was over-served alcohol at an establishment, that establishment may also be held liable for damages. There’s a chance that had that establishment not over-served said individual, they may have chosen not to drive drunk. So, if you seriously injured in the accident and the drunk driver does not have sufficient automobile insurance to cover your damages (medical bills, pain and suffering, etc.), you may be able to collect from the establishment’s liquor liability insurance (if they have it). If the establishment does not have liquor liability insurance, you may be able to collect from the establishment’s assets.
Another example of dram shop liability commonly occurs in cases of assault. Too much alcohol can lead to lowered inhibition and sometimes even aggression. If you are assaulted by an individual who was over-served at an establishment, both the individual who assaulted you and the establishment that over-served them liquor are liable and must cover your damages. Regardless, a prudent attorney will leave “no stone unturned” and diligently investigate to determine potential liability of all parties involved.