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Dram Shop Act

New York State’s Dram Shop Act gives a cause of action to people who have been injured due to a bar illegally serving alcohol. The Dram Shop Act’s main purpose is to punish businesses that facilitate illegal drinking. The Dram Shop Act forbids the illegal sale of alcohol. Illegal sale of alcohol consists of selling alcohol to children under eighteen, alcoholics, or to visibly intoxicated people. Plaintiffs in Dram Shop Act actions may claim punitive and exemplary damages.

If your business has been sued for violating the New York Dram Shop Act, or if you have been seriously injured by an underage drunk driver, alcoholic, or overserved bar patron, call our aggressive and knowledgeable New York tort litigation attorneys today for a free consultation.

The Dram Shop Act provides an independent cause of action. Dram Shop Act actions are not the same as negligence actions. The Dram Shop Act eliminates some of the defendant friendly elements of negligence claims. For example, the Dram Shop Act allows injured parties to claim only a “practical and reasonable connection” between providing alcohol illegally and the injury. This standard is much lower than the typical proximate cause standard found in negligence actions.

In New York negligence actions, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant proximately caused their injuries. Proximate cause essentially requires that the defendant set the events that caused the injuries in motion, and that the injuries were the foreseeable result of the defendant’s conduct. The Dram Shop Act’s “practical and reasonable connection” standard relieves the plaintiff of proving that the plaintiff’s injuries were the foreseeable result of illegal service of alcohol by a particular bar. It is enough that the bar or restaurant served the party who caused the injuries.

Punitive damages and compensatory damages are also authorized under the Dram Shop Act. This means that a person who is harmed in violation of the Dram Shop Act may collect damages that exceed what would make them whole. Dram Shop Act damages are so comprehensive that even when a plaintiff suffers self-inflicted injuries, the bar that served them may be liable for their pain, suffering, and medical expenses. Accordingly, bars and restaurants should be cautious about who they serve alcohol to, and how much alcohol they serve. Businesses that serve alcohol should carefully examine their insurance policies. A Dram Shop Act claim may also not be covered by typical business liability insurance as it is not a negligence claim.

The Dram Shop Act gives the administrator of a decedent’s estate the right to sue for exemplary and actual damages. The purpose of this unique feature of the Dram Shop Act is to protect spouses who may have depended upon their deceased partner’s income to provide for themselves. This does not mean that the Dram Shop Act is a kind of wrongful death claim.

New York strictly construes its Wrongful Death Act, which contains many features that are not favorable to plaintiffs. On the other hand, suing under the Dram Shop Act does not prohibit a plaintiff from bringing a wrongful death claim alongside a Dram Shop Act claim. Plaintiffs can potentially recover more than the minimum amount that what will make them whole under both a Dram Shop Act claim and a wrongful death claim.

If you have suffered an injury due to illegal sale of alcohol or your establishment is being sued under the Dram Shop Act call Tilem & Associates. Our experienced and aggressive New York tort litigation attorneys will be able to give you a free consultation over the phone. Call us today.

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