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Reducing Liability From Dram Shop Laws and DUI Update. American Beverage Licensees 10 th Annual Convention June 12, 2012. Common Law.

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Reducing liability from dram shop laws and dui update

Reducing Liability FromDram Shop Laws and DUI Update

American Beverage Licensees

10th Annual Convention

June 12, 2012

Common law

Common Law

  • At common law, establishments were not liable for selling or providing alcoholic beverages to individuals who became intoxicated and injured themselves or others

  • Courts recognized that the problem wasn’t the drink, but the drinker

Dram shop laws

Dram Shop Laws

Dram shop laws1

Dram Shop Laws

  • Impose liability on commercial establishments that provide alcoholic beverages to certain adults or underage customers for on-premise consumption

  • In some jurisdictions, may also apply to retailors under certain circumstances

Ds laws service to adults

DS Laws: Service to Adults

  • 35 states and DC hold licensees accountable for serving a visibly intoxicated person or knowingly serving a habitual drunkard

  • Other states are likely to join them

Ds laws service to adults1

DS Laws: Service to Adults

  • The burden of proof varies

    • Some states require plaintiffs to prove proximate cause by clear and convincing evidence

  • Some states provide for special defenses

    • Engaging in responsible business practices

  • Ds laws service to minors

    DS Laws: Service to “Minors”

    • 42 states and DC hold licensees accountable for serving “minors”

    • Most states use 21 as a cutoff; remember, it is illegal to serve those under 21 under Federal law

      • A small minority of states limit liability to patrons under 19 or 18

    Ds laws service to minors1

    DS Laws: Service to “Minors”

    • Some states hold vendors responsible for “serving” a minor if they sell alcohol to a person who provides alcohol to a minor if they knew or should have known the person would do so

    Ds laws in the real world

    DS Laws in the Real World

    • Researchers from Washington State University examined 167 cases tried to verdict between 1992 and 1998 where licensees were sued for improper service

    • Most involved car crashes

    • Verdicts routinely exceeded $100,000 and many were well above $1,000,000

    Additional risks

    Additional Risks

    Additional risks1

    Additional Risks

    • Proprietors may have a duty to safeguard customers from “extreme danger” while on the premises

    • Some states may recognize a cause of action for negligence per se when hosts violate criminal statutes

    Additional risks improper supervision

    Additional Risks: Improper Supervision

    • Do licensees have an obligation to monitor patrons?

      • Bauer v. Nesbitt (NJ Ct App 2008)

        • Held that an establishment had a duty to ensure that a visibly intoxicated patron was driven home by a sober companion and/or to protect the person from hurting himself or others!

        • Reversed by NJ Supreme Court

    Additional risks improper eviction

    Additional Risks: Improper Eviction

    • Licensees typically evict patrons who are underage, become belligerent or endanger others

    • Is there risk?

      • Not in most jurisdictions

      • Exceptions:

        • Facilitation of tortious conduct

        • Outrageous conduct

    Additional risks improper refusal

    Additional Risks: “Improper” Refusal

    • Improper refusal of service

      • Example: What happens when a server refuses to serve a patron who has a speech impediment because the server thinks he or she is drunk?

      • Licensees can minimize the risk by training staff to ask questions about prior drinking and watching for changes in behavior

    Insurance and indemnification

    Insurance and Indemnification

    Because you can t prevent someone from suing you

    Because you can’t prevent someone from suing you

    • In December 2011, a Texas woman sued a bar when she was raped by a pair of police officers after leaving a local club

      • She claimed that employees served her until she became drunk

      • Continued to sell to her after she became drunk

      • Allowed her to leave when she was obviously intoxicated and posed a clear danger to herself and others

    Insurance and indemnification1

    Insurance and Indemnification

    • General liability policies

      • Generally exclude coverage for negligent service

      • Generally apply to on-premises harms only

    • Liquor liability policies should be sought that cover

      • Assaults and batteries

      • Suits brought be third parties injured off-premises by a patron served at the establishment

      • All types of damages (ie. mental)

      • Employee drinking

      • Defense costs

    Insurance and indemnification2

    Insurance and Indemnification

    • Some states provide licensees and hosts with a right of indemnification

      • In the real world, this often is of little value

    • Hotels and other venues that allow patrons to host parties should consider requiring the hosts to obtain insurance and indemnify them if someone is hurt

    Reducing risk

    Reducing Risk

    Reducing risk1

    Reducing Risk

    • Develop relationships with state and local regulators

    • Obtain state certification as a responsible vendor where available

    • Draft written policies and follow them

    • Provide training to staff by certified trainers from third party vendors

    • Audit/monitor staff

    • Prohibit employees from drinking on duty

    • Require anyone who appears to be under 30 to produce identification

    Reducing risk2

    Reducing Risk

    • Maintain appropriate staffing

    • Publicize responsible business practices

    • Remove customers in appropriate cases

    • Avoid engaging in behaviors that encourage overconsumption or overservice

    • Encourage designated drivers

    • Document and track incidents

    • Obtain and maintain insurance

    • Refuse service to habitual drunkards or visibly intoxicated patrons

    What s happening nationally

    What’s happening nationally?

    Attacks on the industry

    Attacks on the Industry

    • Responsibility

      • Is the problem the product or the drinker?

        • Some advocates suggest that “You caused the problem”

        • The truth is that the vast majority of Americans use alcohol responsibly and that the industry is part of the solution

    Dui update industry contributions

    DUI Update: Industry Contributions

    • Several national organizations are working hard to reduce drunk driving and underage drinking

      • Supporting change

        • STOP Act

        • Legislation addressing hardcore drunk drivers (Federal and state)

        • Resources for judges, prosecutors and probation officers

        • Funding for national non-profits organizations and working groups (Beam Global, Anheuser-Busch and others)

    Dui update industry contributions1

    DUI Update: Industry Contributions

    • Providing resources

      • ABL toolkits

      • TCC guides

      • Funding conferences

      • Funding publications

    Underage drinking

    Underage Drinking

    • Marketing and youth

      • Criticism remains high despite industry efforts

      • Many seem to be ignoring the realities

        • The government’s ability to regulate advertising is limited by the First Amendment

        • Most in the industry follow voluntary standards

        • Underage drinking has dropped significantly during the past 10 years

    • Among underage drinkers, less than 10% purchase the alcohol themselves

    Dui update

    DUI Update

    • Federal legislation

      • SAFETEA-LU expired two years ago

      • The current bill is unlikely to be passed this year

    • NTSB Forum

      • “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk” versus “Don’t drink and drive”

      • Interlock

      • First offender interlock is becoming a reality

      • 15 states already have legislation and the number is growing quickly

    Bonus discussion drugged driving

    Bonus Discussion: Drugged Driving

    • Drugged driving

      • Drugged driving appears to be as significant as alcohol impaired driving

        • About 1/3 of drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes have a drug or drugs in their systems

        • Over 16% of weekend nighttime drivers have a drug or drugs in their systems

      • One of the key components of the President’s drug control strategy



    Stephen K. Talpins

    (305) 995-5432

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