Arizona Dram Shop Law and Liability

“Dram shop” is a legal term used in the United States that refers to the liability of restaurants, bars, and other commercial establishments if they provide alcohol to patrons after the patrons have become intoxicated, or to minors, and these people injure or kill others.  In the United States, state laws generally provide that establishments can be held liable for the consequences that result from providing alcohol to minors or from over-serving intoxicated patrons.

Arizona law is similar to most other states in this regard.  Arizona Revised Statutes Section 4-311 has codified common law, and this section specifically describes the circumstances under which “licensees” (commercial establishments serving alcohol) can be liable.

Arizona Dram Shop Liability is Not Automatic

Because someone drank at a bar prior to causing an accident does not automatically make the bar liable.  Liability typically hinges upon whether the person was “obviously intoxicated” when served alcohol. Sometimes, a person may have had only a single drink in a bar after consuming many drinks at other bars, so a critical fact question is whether those serving the additional drink should have known the person was intoxicated.

How Liability is Proven in a Dram Shop Case

To prove liability, evidence must support that the bar or establishment knew or should have known the patron was intoxicated, yet still continued to serve alcohol to that patron.  Such evidence may be supported by:

  • Reviewing the number of drinks ordered by the patron,
  • Testimony from witnesses, including servers on the condition of the patron,
  • Video surveillance,
  • Actions of the patron, such as stumbling or falling down (which may indicate the bar should have stopped serving or taken action).

In severe cases, establishments have acted outrageously in disregarding obvious intoxication.  Bars have continued to serve alcoholic beverages to patrons even when they were several times over the legal limit of intoxication for driving.  Bar employees have helped patrons who were stumbling, falling, or passing out to their cars, so that these people could drive home.  The consequences have been predictably tragic.

These Types of Behaviors Are Outrageous

Commercial Establishments Must Bear the Consequence of Their Wrongful Actions

When they encourage and promote over-consumption, establishments must bear responsibility for the death, injury, and destruction caused by their intoxicated patrons.

When drunk drivers injure our clients or kill family members, our firm will undertake a meticulous investigation to learn about the alcohol consumption of the drunk driver leading up to the crash.  We will investigate where alcohol was consumed, how much was consumed and when, and whether the driver was visibly intoxicated when served.  We will look for important evidence (such as bar receipts) and interview servers, other witnesses, and those who were drinking with the drunk driver.

Call Us if You Were Injured, or if a Family Member was Killed, by a Drunk Driver


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