If you are injured by someone whose intoxication is a result of being over-served at a bar, restaurant, or nightclub, you can hold the establishment civilly liable in the state of Massachusetts. This is known as a “dram shop claim,” and it can also apply to social hosts who serve alcohol at a party or other event.
Massachusetts prohibits all alcohol vendors from selling or serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. Doing so can make the vendor liable for negligence. However, the injured person must show that the vendor continued serving alcohol to the visibly intoxicated individual. For example, if the person sitting next to you is still ordering drinks even though his speech is slurred, you can file a personal injury claim if you’re injured when he falls from his barstool and knocks you over. You can also file a dram shop claim against the bar.
Bar owners and servers are supposed to be professionally trained to detect when a patron is visibly intoxicated. But what about social hosts? If you are injured when an intoxicated guest leaves your neighbor’s birthday party, can you hold your neighbor liable? The short answer is “no.” With very few exceptions, the only way a social host can be held liable for serving alcohol is if he or she serves minors under the age of 21.
First Party Dram Shop Cases vs. Third Party Dram Shop Cases
All states allow dram shop cases, and there are two types. These are:
First party dram shop case: This type of case exists when the injured party is the person who was sold, and consumed, the excessive drinks. Certain states do not allow first party dram shop cases. Even when they are allowed, first party dram shop cases are rarely won. For example, if a drunk patron leaves a bar, drives her car into a telephone pole and sues the bar, her chance of proving that the bar is responsible for her car accident is quite small. If, however, the first party dram shop case involves a minor, the bar is often held liable.
Third party dram shop case: This type of case occurs when the person injured is someone other than the intoxicated individual. If the injured person can prove that the bar was negligent, he or she will typically win the case. Additionally, certain states allow enhanced damages if it can be proven that the defendant was also reckless in his or her actions.
While these are brief overviews, our Massachusetts injury lawyers can provide a complete breakdown of the difference between, while offering you a free consultation on your potential case.
In either case, dram shop claims must be filed within the statute of limitations specified by Massachusetts – this is three years from the date of injury.
Altman and Altman LLP has been handling social host liability and Dram shop cases for over forty years out staff of talented Boston injury lawyers have successfully litigated a number of these cases. Our experience, our expertise, and our intimate knowledge of how the social host laws apply throughout the commonwealth provides our clients with the best opportunity for legal success.
If you’ve been injured by someone whose level of intoxication played a role in the accident, you may be entitled to compensation for any damages or injuries. In MA, you can also hold the alcohol vendor liable. At Altman & Altman, LLP, we have been protecting the rights of accident and injury victims for nearly 50 years. If you believe a bar or other establishment is responsible for over-serving the person who caused your injuries, we can help. Our knowledgeable personal injury team has extensive experience with accident cases involving bars and other alcohol vendors. Don’t pay for someone else’s lack of responsibility and judgment. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free consultation about your case.