Arizona Dram Shop Lawsuits: Holding Those Who Over-Serve Responsible

By on November 7, 2012

In Arizona and throughout the United States, in order to legally consume beer or alcohol, you must be at least 21 years old. There are a variety of reasons for this, some political, some health-related and some related to maturity and responsibility.

Those who do choose to drink are expected not to drive after doing so. Yet, despite high-profile national campaigns against drunk driving, including efforts by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), designated driver campaigns, warnings advertising increased drunk driving patrols, and sobriety check points by law enforcement, drunk driving still occurs.

Some people may overestimate the number of alcoholic drinks they can consume without becoming impaired, some may misunderstand the true effects of alcohol and some simply may not care that they are risking others' lives when they drink and drive. Regardless of why people drink and drive, it is often more than just the driver who pays for his or her mistakes.

Arizona Dram Shop Laws Hold Business Owners Responsible for Over-Serving

Arizona puts part of the responsibility of keeping drunk drivers off the roads on the establishments that serve alcohol. By law, bars, night clubs, restaurants and any other place that holds serves beer or alcohol are not allowed to serve alcohol to "obviously intoxicated" persons or to minors. If an establishment does so and the person over-served alcohol causes an Arizona drunk-driving accident, the business can be held responsible for the injuries the drunk driver causes through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

Known as a "dram shop" action, establishments that possess an Arizona liquor license - issued by the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control (ADLLC) - are required to help keep the public safe by not over-serving intoxicated persons or serving minors. If establishments fail to do so, they may be held responsible for damages caused by the intoxicated persons. The duty to help protect from drunk drivers is implicitly accepted by establishments that receive an Arizona liquor license.

According to Arizona law, a bar, restaurant or other establishment that holds an Arizona liquor license may be held liable personal injuries, property damage or wrongful death if three conditions are met:

  • Alcohol was sold - the establishment holding the Arizona liquor license either sold alcohol to an "obviously intoxicated" patron at least 21-years-old or sold alcohol to a minor knowingly or without requesting identification.
  • Alcohol was consumed - the alcohol sold by the establishment was consumed by the minor or intoxicated person.
  • Alcohol was involved in an injury - the consumption of the liquor sold by the establishment was a proximate cause of personal injuries, property damage or wrongful death caused by the intoxicated patron.

An obviously intoxicated person is one whom a reasonable person can tell has drank too much. Through the drunk person's actions, such as slurred speech, lost coordination, inability to walk without stumbling or other physical dysfunction, it is or should be obvious to a reasonable person that the person is intoxicated. The state of Arizona believes that employees of an establishment serving alcohol are in the best spot to know if persons buying alcohol are intoxicated or not.

Limitations on Arizona Dram Shop Liability for Furnishing Alcohol

There are a few limitations on Arizona's dram shop law.

In order to be held responsible for the injuries caused by an obviously intoxicated person, the person or establishment selling or furnishing beer or alcohol has to be licensed by the state of Arizona. This means that friends, neighbors, family members or other persons - called "Social Hosts" - who do not possess an Arizona liquor license will not be held responsible under dram shop laws for furnishing alcohol to persons 21 years or older.

A second limitation on Arizona's dram shop law is that only those who are injured, either physically or through damage to property, are able to hold the serving establishment liable. That means that the drunk driver or his or her family cannot hold the establishment liable for damage to either the person or property of the intoxicated driver.

Regardless of Responsibility, Arizona Drunk Driving Accidents are Dangerous

Car accidents involving drunk drivers often involve very serious injuries that can result in expensive long-term care and costly medical bills. If there is not enough insurance coverage or if a lawsuit against the drunk driver recovers little money, finding another source of compensation to pay for your bills may be necessary. Speak with an experienced Tucson motor vehicle accident attorney about exploring other sources of compensation, including filing a dram shop lawsuit against an establishment that over-served the intoxicated driver.

An attorney can help you seek compensation for your medical bills, long-term care, lost wages, and pain and suffering. An attorney can also help you file a wrongful death lawsuit if a loved one was fatally injured by a drunk driver.