Liability and the Sale of Alcohol
3 Basic Rules
  • Sales to Underage Patrons
  • Sales to People Who are Visibly Intoxicated
  • Sales to Habitual Drunkards
Proof of Intoxication
1.  BAC  (blood alcohol content)
2.  Visible/Audible indications or tests
Dram Shop and the Common Law
  • under common law tavern is not liable because the consumption caused the accident not the sale of the alcoholic beverage
  • under dram shop the tavern is liable to injury of a third party  ==>  court's reasoning is that the tavern should foresee the possibility of an accident due to the sale of the alcohol
Liability for Injuries to Patrons
  • for intoxicated patron - generally none
  • for passenger of intoxicated patron - only liable if they did not contribute to the driver's intoxication
  • injured third party - yes tavern is liable  (potential award could be very $$$)
Strategies to Avoid Liability
  • adopt internal policies on alcohol sales and publish them
  • train employees in the responsible service of alcohol
  • promote alternatives to alcohol
  • offer mini drinks
  • offer non-alcoholic beer and wine
  • state the quantity of alcohol in a drink on the menu
Web Sites of Interest
  1. State of Vermont -- Department of Liquor Control 
  2. TIPs -- Training for Intervention Procedures 
  3. The National Commission Against Drunk Driving 


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this page is maintained by Reed Fisher
last updated January 15, 2011