Establishing Dram Shop And Liquor Liability In Pennsylvania: Do You Really Need Witnesses?

On behalf of Dan Doyle Law Group posted in Dram Shop and Liquor Liability on Saturday, June 30, 2018.
dram shop and liquor liability attorney

Personal injury claims involving allegations of alcohol intoxications can be very complicated and difficult to litigate, which is why lawmakers dedicated a separate chapter of legislation to handle the so-called dram shop liability claims.

Our Philadelphia dram shop and liquor liability attorney at the Dan Doyle Law Group explains that such claims require careful analysis to determine what policies may apply to hold the responsible parties liable for their actions or lack of action.

What does dram shop and liquor liability mean?

Drunk people can do much damage, from operating a vehicle – a potential weapon of mass destruction – while overly intoxicated to assaulting other people at nightclubs, bars, and restaurants.

We invited our best dram shop and liquor liability lawyers in Pennsylvania to spell out how a plaintiff (victim of a wrongful or negligent act caused by an overly intoxicated person) can establish liability against a liquor licensee.

By only suing the drunk person who caused your injuries, your compensation will be limited and not sizeable enough to cover all of your damages and losses. Bringing a lawsuit against both the overly intoxicated person and the liquor licensee who served this person alcoholic beverages, on the other hand, can significantly increase the value of your claim. This section of law is called dram shop and liquor liability.

Two elements to prove to establish dram shop and liquor liability

“In order to prove dram shop and liquor liability, you need to establish two elements as part of your personal injury or premises liability claim,” explains our experienced dram shop and liquor liability lawyer in Philadelphia and elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

  1. An employer or agent of the licensee (a) served alcohol beverages to a customer who was visibly overly intoxicated, or (b) continued to serve alcoholic beverages even though the customer was getting overly intoxicated; and
  2. This violation of the law was directly or proximately responsible for your injuries.

Do note, however, that your personal injury or premises liability claim would not be successful if you merely established that alcoholic beverages were served to a particular person and/or that this person was intoxicated at the time of the accident or incident that left you injured.

In order to hold the liquor licensee liable for your injuries, you and your attorney must demonstrate evidence that the defendant was served alcoholic beverages while visibly overly intoxicated.

Direct eyewitness evidence in dram shop and liquor liability cases

Although many attorneys and people for decades believed that you would not be able to sue the liquor licensee for being responsible for your injuries without having direct eyewitness evidence, it is not the case.

Since the case of McDonald v. Marriott in 1989, people in Philadelphia and all across Pennsylvania were led to believe that a plaintiff would have to secure witness accounts attesting to the fact that the defendant exhibited signs of visible intoxication before being served by a liquor licensee in order to prove the licensee’s liability.

However, not many years ago, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that you can prove that the defendant was served alcohol while being overly intoxicated even in the absence of direct eyewitness evidence. Needless to say, having eyewitness evidence can significantly increase your chances of success in recovering compensation, but it is not a mandatory element of your claim.

How to establish dram shop and liquor liability without witnesses?

So what should you do to establish dram shop and liquor liability if you have no witnesses to prove that the defendant exhibited signs of visible intoxication when he or she was served alcohol by the liquor licensee?

“In the absence of direct eyewitness evidence, you can establish visible intoxication by relying on the results of a blood alcohol test after the accident or incident,” says our Philadelphia dram shop and liquor liability attorney. “Furthermore, the so-called ‘the relation back’ analysis can be performed by an expert to establish that the defendant was intoxicated approximately at the time he or she was served the alcohol.”

Without these types of evidence in the absence of witness testimony, you would have insufficient evidence to establish liability and hold the liquor licensee responsible for its actions or lack of action. Consult with our skilled lawyers at the Dan Doyle Law Group and receive a free evaluation of your case. Call at 215-987-3730 or fill out this contact form.

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