Dram Shop Law & Social Host Liability in Minnesota

If you have been injured in a drunk driving accident in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it is possible that other parties may be at fault besides the at-fault motorist. In Minnesota, two important legal concepts come into play in such situations: "Dram Shop Law" and "Social Host Liability." These laws hold establishments and individuals accountable for the actions of intoxicated individuals they serve or provide alcohol to. Let's explore these laws and their implications

Dram Shop Law in Minnesota

A "dram shop" is a term historically used to refer to establishments that sell alcoholic beverages by the dram, a small unit of measurement. In modern legal contexts, "Dram Shop Law" holds businesses like bars, restaurants, and liquor stores responsible for injuries or damages caused by their patrons when it can be proven that the establishment served alcohol to someone who was already visibly intoxicated. The primary goal of this law is to discourage establishments from over-serving customers and to prevent alcohol-related accidents and injuries.

Minnesota's Dram Shop Law is codified under Minnesota Statute section 340A.801. According to this statute, an injured party can pursue a claim against an establishment if the following elements are established:

  • The establishment sold alcohol to an individual who was "obviously intoxicated" at the time of service.
  • The alcohol sale was a direct cause of the injuries or damages suffered by the plaintiff.

It's essential to note that the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff to demonstrate that the establishment knowingly served alcohol to someone who was already excessively drunk. Additionally, this law does not apply to injuries sustained by the intoxicated person themselves; it is specifically designed to protect innocent third parties who may be harmed by the actions of the intoxicated individual.

Social Host Liability in Minnesota

Social Host Liability comes into play when an individual, rather than an establishment, provides alcohol to guests at a private gathering or event. Under this law, a person who hosts a party or event in their home or property may be held legally responsible if they furnish alcohol to a visibly intoxicated guest, who then goes on to cause harm to others or themselves.

Minnesota's Social Host Liability is not specifically codified in a single statute, but court decisions and legal precedents have established its principles. To hold a social host liable, the following elements must generally be proven:

  • The host provided alcohol to the guest.
  • The host knew or should have known that the guest was visibly intoxicated at the time of alcohol provision.
  • The intoxicated guest's actions were a direct cause of the injuries or damages suffered by the plaintiff.

Similar to Dram Shop Law, Social Host Liability focuses on the responsibility to serve alcohol responsibly and the prevention of alcohol-related accidents.

Comparing Dram Shop Law and Social Host Liability

Although both Dram Shop Law and Social Host Liability address the consequences of serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated individuals, there are notable differences between the two:

  • Defendants: Dram Shop Law applies to commercial establishments such as bars, restaurants, and liquor stores, while Social Host Liability is applicable to individuals hosting private gatherings.
  • Statutory Basis: Dram Shop Law is clearly defined in Minnesota Statute section 340A.801, whereas Social Host Liability is established through court decisions and legal precedents.
  • Monetary Liability: In both cases, the liable party may be required to compensate the injured party for medical expenses, property damage, pain and suffering, and lost wages. However, Dram Shop Law may potentially hold the establishment liable for a higher amount, given their commercial nature and capacity to serve a larger number of customers.

At Bolt Law Firm, we understand the complexities surrounding Dram Shop Law and Social Host Liability in Minnesota. Our experienced car accident attorneys are here to provide you with the guidance and support you need to navigate through these legal matters.

Contact us today to discuss your case and explore your legal options.