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Liquor Liability and Dram Shop Laws

On October 26, 2016, Max Holloway, son of ex-football player Brian Holloway, was driving home from a night of drinking when he lost control of his car and crashed into a nearby home. He died in the accident. Soon after, Max’s parents filed a lawsuit against the restaurant at which their son had been drinking on the night of his death. They claimed that employees of the restaurant knew their son had an addiction to alcohol but served him anyway. Dram shop laws enabled them to file the lawsuit.

Through dram shop laws, establishments that sell alcohol can be held accountable for damage or injury caused by their customers. Although their severity and limitations vary, 41 states have some sort of dram shop law. Dram shop laws can inflict a severe financial burden on establishments. The states without dram shop laws are Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, and Virginia.

To avoid a lawsuit, Distinguished Programs ( offers bar and restaurant owners/managers a few suggestions. They are:

  • Make sure you know your state’s dram shop laws
  • Always check the age of patrons
  • Never serve a person if they appear to be intoxicated
  • Never serve someone after the establishment has closed
  • Never serve someone a drink with a high enough alcohol content that it could intoxicate them
  • Ensure all servers have attended an approved server education course
  • Encourage patrons to not become intoxicated
  • Promote any nonalcoholic beverages
  • Encourage use of taxis or other forms of transportation

Make sure to protect your establishment by taking all precautions to avoid any lawsuits due to dram shop laws.

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