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Liability for Injuries Caused by Intoxicated Guests


As the holidays approach, many of us are gearing up for the inevitable parties and get-togethers that are typical of the season. Whether they take place at a restaurant or someone’s home, many of these events will provide a setting in which guests can celebrate with an alcoholic beverage. In most cases, these kinds of holiday parties offer a way for friends and family to relax and enjoy one another’s company and everyone is able to get home safely afterwards. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, especially when an inebriated guest leaves the party and causes an accident that results in serious injuries, either to him or herself or to others. It is possible in these cases to hold a host accountable for serving alcohol to an intoxicated guest, but it can be difficult, so if you or a loved one were injured by an intoxicated driver, it is critical to contact an experienced DUI accident attorney who can help you seek compensation for your losses from the responsible parties.

Dram Shop Laws

Florida law allows social hosts and businesses to be held liable for injuries caused by an intoxicated guest. However, the law does only provide limited scenarios in which a person can file a claim against a home or business owner, namely when:

  • The host or business willfully and unlawfully sold or furnished alcoholic beverages to a person under the age of 21 years old; or
  • The host or employee knowingly served alcoholic beverages to a person who was habitually addicted to alcohol.

Only in these circumstances can a person or business be held liable for injuries or damage caused by an intoxicated customer or guest.

What Qualifies as Willful and Unlawful?

One of the ways that a person can be held liable for injuries caused by an intoxicated driver is when he or she willfully and unlawfully sells alcoholic drinks to someone under the legal drinking age. Unfortunately, determining what qualifies as willful and unlawful can be difficult. Florida courts, have however, provided some guidance on what constitutes willful and unlawful conduct. A number of courts have held, for instance, that willful in this context is defined as having actual or circumstantial knowledge that the recipient was under the age of 21 years old. In one opinion issued by the Fifth District Court of Appeal, the court held that even though a defendant failed to ask for photo ID or proof of age, a minor’s adult-like appearance was enough to relieve the defendant of liability. Another appellate court, on the other hand, ruled that a minor’s youthful appearance, combined with a failure to check ID, did qualify as circumstantial evidence for the purpose of demonstrating that a defendant had willfully sold beverages to an underage customer.

Knowingly Serving Someone Who is Addicted to Alcohol

Courts have also grappled with what it means to knowingly serve alcohol to someone with an addiction problem. For example, the Supreme Court of Florida definitively held that a convenience store couldn’t be held liable for selling alcohol to a habitual drunkard, because the establishment didn’t actually serve alcohol, but merely sold it. In another opinion, a Florida court clarified that a bar’s serving of a customer who frequented the establishment and was regularly served excessive alcoholic beverages did satisfy this standard.

Call Our Legal Team Today

Please call 954-566-9919 to schedule a free consultation with one of the dedicated Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys at Boone & Davis today to learn more about your legal options.

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