Morning Mix


Know The Law: Dram Shop Laws

Posted at 10:12 AM, Nov 22, 2021

Did you know one of America’s biggest drinking nights is actually the night before Thanksgiving? With the holiday quickly approaching, Grand Rapids personal injury lawyer, Tom Sinas, offered a refresher on Michigan’s dram shop law. While the term “dram shop” may seem unfamiliar, it, in short, refers to the laws surrounding serving alcohol to underaged minors and the visibly intoxicated. As a Grand Rapids auto accident lawyer, Tom has represented numerous people injured in drunk driving accidents and hopes this segment helps keep people safe this week.

When talking about dram shop laws, there are two categories: retail licensees and social hosts.

Retail License Liability

Retail licensees include bars and restaurants, or those who obtain a retail license to serve alcohol at a one-time event. This group is prohibited from serving alcohol to not only minors but also those who are visibly intoxicated. If they serve a visibly intoxicated person who then injures someone else, the injured party may have a potential legal claim against the bar or restaurant that served the visibly intoxicated patron.

The injured person not only needs visible proof of this happening, but they must also establish proximate cause. Proximate cause means serving to that visibly intoxicated person was the proximate cause of the injury or death.

Also the injured person, once obtaining a personal injury lawyer, must provide notice to the bar or restaurant within a specific timeframe about the lawsuit. Finally, under Michigan’s dram shop law, if a claim is brought against the bar or restaurant for serving a visibly intoxicated person, the drunk driver themselves must also be part of that suit.

Social Host Liability

Social hosts are those who throw a party at their home for friends and family, or not a professional retailer. The general rule is that social hosts are not liable for injuries to third-parties when serving alcohol to adults. However, when serving to minors, there can be legal liability.

There are four fundamental elements which a social host liability Plaintiff must prove:

  1. That he or she has suffered a personal injury;
  2. That the personal injury suffered was caused by a minor, which the law defines as someone under the age of 21 in alcohol-related incidents;
  3. That the Defendant knowingly sold or furnished alcoholic liquor, or failed to make diligent inquiry as to whether the person was a minor; and
  4. The service of alcohol to the minor proximately caused the Plaintiff to suffer injury.

There are several special considerations that must be taken into account when filing a social host liability claim.

The law is somewhat unsettled in the actions which will give rise to social host liability. While the law remains clear that the express provision of alcohol to a minor will certainly give rise to a cause of action, there may be other situations in which such an action is available.

In other words, the defendant need not be involved in the actual service of alcohol to the minor to be held liable, so long as he or she had some level of control over the service of alcohol at the gathering. Also if the actions of the minor which caused the injury were criminal or intentional, those actions will cut off the availability of social host liability.

There are a number of defenses available to a Defendant in a social host liability claim. Commonly, social host defendants will show a (fake) ID card showing them to be of the legal age for alcohol consumption. If such identification is shown, it will act as a defense to the social host liability claim.

In the unfortunate event of a drunk driving accident, law enforcement takes into account the whole picture. Who caused the accident? What is that individual’s liability? Are there other entities potentially responsible for the accident? The bottom line is to never serve alcohol to minors and understand the potential liabilities involved with serving adults and the visibly intoxicated.

To learn more, visit sinasdramis.comor call 616-301-3333.

This segment is paid for by Sinas Dramis Law Firm.