Dram shop lawsuits are a type of legal action that can be brought against a business, such as a bar or restaurant, for selling alcohol to someone who then causes harm to themselves or others as a result of their intoxication. These lawsuits can be challenging for lawyers to pursue due to a number of factors. In this blog post, we will explore some of the challenges that lawyers face in dram shop lawsuits.
One of the primary challenges in a dram shop lawsuit is proving causation. In other words, the plaintiff must show that the business’s sale of alcohol was the direct cause of the harm that was suffered. This can be difficult to prove, especially in cases where the individual who consumed the alcohol may have also been drinking elsewhere or engaging in other risky behavior.
In addition to causation, lawyers in dram shop lawsuits must also prove liability. This means demonstrating that the business had a duty to prevent the harm that occurred, and that they breached that duty by continuing to serve alcohol to someone who was visibly intoxicated or underage. Liability can be challenging to establish, especially if the business can argue that they were unaware of the individual’s level of intoxication.
- Statutory requirements
Dram shop lawsuits are often subject to strict statutory requirements, which can make them more complex to pursue. For example, some states may require that the plaintiff prove that the business was aware of the individual’s age or level of intoxication at the time of the sale. Other states may require that the plaintiff provide notice of their intention to pursue a dram shop claim within a certain timeframe. For example, on March 29, 2022, dram shop law in Arizona changed after the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One, decided Torres v. JAI Dining Servs. (Phx.), Inc., 508 P.3d 1148, 1159 (App. 2022) wherein the Court ruled that a dram shop action can be maintained under the statutes (see A.R.S. §§ 4-312(B) and 4-311), but not under the common law. This means that a dram shop action in Arizona must be filed within one year.
- Insurance coverage
Businesses that serve alcohol typically carry liability insurance to protect themselves in the event of a lawsuit. However, insurance coverage can also present a challenge for lawyers in dram shop cases. Insurance companies may try to deny coverage or offer a low settlement amount, which can make it difficult for the plaintiff to recover the full amount of damages that they are owed.
- Public perception
Finally, lawyers in dram shop lawsuits may face challenges related to public perception. Some people may view these lawsuits as frivolous or unfairly targeting businesses, which can make it harder for lawyers to build support for their case. Additionally, the stigma associated with alcohol-related injuries or fatalities may make it more difficult for plaintiffs to come forward and seek legal recourse.
In conclusion, dram shop lawsuits can be challenging for lawyers to pursue due to a range of factors, including causation, liability, statutory requirements, insurance coverage, and public perception. Despite these challenges, however, dram shop lawsuits can be an important tool for holding businesses accountable for their role in alcohol-related harm and promoting safer practices in the sale and consumption of alcohol.