The idea that a bar can be sued for over-serving a person is often referred to as a “dram shop law” in legal and legislative circles. Under these laws, the owner of an establishment that serves alcohol can be held liable if the patron goes out and hurts someone.
According to the logic of the laws, drinking establishments need a legal incentive to cut people off from drinks in order to avoid drunk driver accidents, which often have serious or deadly consequences. These laws also hold establishments responsible if they carelessly over-serve patrons.
Tennessee has a fairly narrow version of these laws, meaning that a Nashville car accident attorney will have to assemble relatively airtight evidence if they wish to hold an establishment accountable for a resulting drunk driving accident injury. Nevertheless, injury victims should always pursue their right to legal action in order to obtain the maximum possible compensation for their injury and resulting hardship.
Tennessee Dram Shop Laws and Drunk Driver Accidents
In the state of Tennessee, Tennessee Code 57-10-102 outlines the corresponding “dram shop” law describing the liability of establishments that serve alcohol. This set of laws is stricter than most states and stricter than most civil court procedures in general.
Unlike most civil procedures where a “preponderance of evidence” standard is used by judges and juries, the Tennessee dram shop law forces a 12 person jury to adopt a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. This standard, used mostly in criminal cases, requires that if any evidence could possibly contradict the case narrative of the defendant’s liability, then the case cannot rule in favor of the plaintiff. Juries must not have any “reasonable doubt” as to the defendant’s wrongdoing, in other words.
Additionally, a liability claim can only be brought against establishments if they actually sold the alcohol to a person who was “visibly intoxicated” or a minor under age 21. The alcohol sale must also have been the direct cause of the injury.
In regards to the last requirement, someone who was intoxicated before they bought additional drinks may have already been impaired enough to cause an accident, making the last point-of-sale not necessarily a direct cause of an injury. Likewise, a drunk person who slips and falls into the road, causing someone to swerve, hit a telephone pole and injure themselves may also involve too indirect of a scenario according to this high standard of liability.
However, these two hypothetical examples could play out differently depending on the circumstances and the jury in question, meaning all injured parties should at least explore a dram shop claim before ruling it out altogether.
Alcohol Sales and the Need for a Nashville Car Accident Attorney
An additional rule in these cases requires that the alcohol provider in question sell the drinks to the person in a normal business transaction, meaning that party hosts may not face liability for over-serving guests.
Accident victims will need a Nashville car accident attorney to help them sort through these details and decide how to best pursue their personal injury claim. You can contact the law offices of Mitch Grissim & Associates using the number above or our short online contact form to receive a free consultation regarding your case and your legal options.