In Dram Shop Laws – Improving Public Safety, dram shop expert witness Maj. Mark Willingham of Alcohol Solutions, LLC, writes:
Laws exist in every state except Florida and Nevada that place criminal and/or administrative responsibility on the bar or the bartender/server to monitor the behavior of the drinker and their consumption of alcohol. Once a drinker reaches the point where he or she reaches various levels of intoxication, and therefore, loses the ability to make rational decisions, responsibility for insuring the drinker’s safety and those the drinker may harm, shifts to the retailer through criminal and/or administrative prohibitions. Under these administrative and/or criminal laws, the retailer becomes his brother’s keeper.
Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have determined that their public policy interests are better served by placing some responsibility for over-service or over-consumption on the alcohol server or the licensee through the civil justice system. These dram shop laws provide a plaintiff legal standing to bring an action against a tort feasor for an alcohol related injury or death. Most instances that bring rise to a civil dram shop lawsuit stem from a traffic crash. Other causes of action, however, relate to homicide, sexual assault, and other incidents where the intoxicated patron loses the ability of self-regulation.