Gavel, car keys, and amber drink on desk

Understanding Dram Shop Liability Claims 

Goldberg, Goldberg & Maloney Oct. 25, 2022

Drop shop liability is a term used to describe claims brought against establishments (e.g., restaurants, bars, and nightclubs) that serve alcohol to intoxicated persons who cause injuries or deaths to others. In other words, dram shop liability claims are generally based on allegations that an establishment overserved alcohol.  

Our personal injury attorneys at Goldberg, Goldberg & Maloney can assist you in every aspect of your dram shop liability case, including investigating whether or not the establishment or social host overserved the person who caused your injuries or your loved one’s death.  

Contact our office in West Chester, Pennsylvania, to discuss your particular situation and explore your legal options. We will analyze the facts of your case and explain if you can file a lawsuit against the intoxicated person and/or the alcohol-serving establishment.  

Dram Shop Liability Law in Pennsylvania  

Under the dram shop liability law in Pennsylvania, liquor license holders (alcohol-serving establishments) can be held responsible for injuries, deaths, and damages that their overserved patrons and guests cause or sustain on their own. Examples of situations where dram shop liability may be applicable include: 

  • A visibly intoxicated person is served and then causes a motor vehicle accident because of their impairment;  

  • A visibly intoxicated person is served and then starts a fight with another individual due to their impairment; and 

  • A visibly intoxicated person is served and then trips, falls, or otherwise gets seriously injured because of their impairment.  

Alcohol-serving establishments can be held liable for injuries, deaths, or damages under Pennsylvania’s dram shop liability law if they serve minors under the age of 21 or visibly intoxicated patrons. In Pennsylvania, social hosts can only be held liable if they knowingly serve alcohol to minors.  

Applicability of Dram Shop Liability 

Pennsylvania’s dram shop liability law applies to all liquor license holders. While social hosts generally do not fall under the category of liquor license holders, there is a separate legal concept that applies to non-licensees. The concept is called “social host” liability. An injured victim or surviving family members of the deceased can bring a dram shop liability claim when the following criteria are met: 

  1. The establishment or its employee served alcohol to an individual (patron, guest, or customer) who was “visibly intoxicated”; and 

  1. The decision to serve alcohol to the visibly intoxicated individual directly caused the resulting injuries, deaths, or damages.  

The plaintiff – the injured party in personal injury cases or surviving family members in wrongful death cases – has the burden to prove the above-mentioned conditions. Proving the “visibly intoxicated” element can be challenging and usually requires witness testimony. Contact a skilled attorney to help you investigate your case, determine if you are eligible to pursue a dram shop liability claim, and assist you in gathering all available evidence to support your claim.  

Statute of Limitations  

The statute of limitations applies to all civil injury cases, and dram shop liability claims are not an exception. The statute sets a time limit within which the plaintiff can bring a lawsuit. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations that applies to dram shop liability claims is two years from the date of the incident, regardless of whether the intoxicated person’s conduct resulted in injury or death.  

Recoverable Damages in Dram Shop Liability Claims 

When filing a dram shop liability claim, the plaintiff is trying to seek justice and pursue compensation for the damages and losses stemming from the alcohol-serving establishment’s decision to overserve someone. The following damages may be available in Pennsylvania’s dram shop liability claims:  

  • Medical bills, including hospitalization, rehabilitation, and physical therapy costs 

  • Loss of income and benefits due to missed work 

  • Diminished earning capacity 

  • Property damage 

  • Pain and suffering 

  • Emotional distress 

A plaintiff might be entitled to compensation under Pennsylvania’s dram shop liability law even if the intoxicated individual was not charged with a criminal offense or convicted.  

Take Legal Action to Pursue a Dram Shop Liability Claim   

Are you wondering if you can sue an alcohol-serving establishment for your injuries or your loved one’s death? Speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your case. Our knowledgeable attorneys at Goldberg, Goldberg & Maloney can help determine if you have grounds to pursue a dram shop liability claim. From our office in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we will fight for justice on your behalf. Contact us today to start working on your case.