What is a "dram shop" lawsuit, and what is involved?

In the past, we have successfully maintained suits against liquor establishments for selling/furnishing alcohol to a noticeably intoxicated person - who, after leaving the establishment (or while still on the premises), caused injury to others.  This often happens in DUI related auto accidents (sometimes it applies to bar fight cases too).   When there is insufficient auto insurance to cover the auto accident injuries (be it the insurance of the drink driver or the "under" insurance of the injured person), lawyers are required to see of the person or establishment serving the DUI driver furnished alcohol to that driver when that driver (while at the establishment) was noticeably intoxicated.   This is not an easy thing to do (although, with lots of work, we have been able to do so).  An Ohio statute covers the law in this area. A recent case out of Franklin County explains the legalities and complexities of these types of cases.  In Piras v. Screamin Willie's, 2015-Ohio-255, the Court of Appeals in Franklin County discussed how a bar/restaurant can be held liable for injuries caused by a patron who was served alcohol despite the fact that the patron was "noticeably intoxicated."    The Court held:

  • “For a claim to arise under R.C. 4399.18, noticeable intoxication must be evident at the time of service….[the defendant's] obvious intoxication at the accident scene and hospital does not provide, absent additional evidence, that he was noticeably intoxicated hours earlier when he placed orders at the bar.”

We have, in the past had to hunt down cash register receipts and interview other bar/restaurant patrons to finally discover how intoxicated the defendant was while the defendant was still on the premises of the bar/restaurant.  Magnum PI results matter here.

Be careful out there.  Don't hesitate to tell the bar/restaurant manager that a patron has had too much.