Who is Liable for Over-Service of Alcohol?

A Massachusetts man who was attacked by an intoxicated person and sustained a head injury is seeking damages—not from his attacker, but from the establishment that served him alcohol. Alcohol intoxication is something that is fraught with risks, both to the drunk person and to the people around them. Whether due to drunk driving or belligerent bar fighting, alcohol can be the source of a great deal of bodily harm to innocent victims. However, who should be held legally liable for the injuries, deaths, and damages caused by a person under the influence of alcohol?

Dram shop laws

Several states have civil codes called “dram shop laws” that govern whether or not it is permissible to serve obviously intoxicated people more liquor at a restaurant, bar, pub, or similar service establishment. California’s dram shop laws leave the question of liability open-ended, providing strict regulation regarding service of a minor or a “habitual or common drunkard,” but without specifying what makes for a “habitual or common drunkard.” However, it is possible that owners of an alcohol service establishment could be held liable under California law.

Alcohol’s effects on behavioral inhibition

In a 2008 study published in the journal of Behavioral Pharmacology, researchers found that alcohol impacts the brain’s inhibitory processes. This means that alcohol can significantly affect an intoxicated person’s impulse control. These inhibitory effects can lead a drunk person to think they are “just fine to drive,” or to cause an otherwise peaceful person to become aggressive and prone to picking fights.

How alcohol affects judgment

Consuming alcohol impairs executive function in the brain, leading to poor judgment. The more alcohol a person drinks, the more likely their judgment is to suffer negative effects. This is because all alcohol not metabolized by the liver is left free to circulate throughout the body via the bloodstream.

Is the intoxicated person to blame, or the place that served them?

While some responsibility for one’s own sobriety (or the lack thereof) must be borne by the person who chooses to drink alcohol, some of the fault may lie with the person who served the alcohol or the establishment at which the server works. The owner of the establishment could be at fault for not training the servers in how to recognize over-intoxication or how to avoid over-service, even though the California penal code does not have regulations outlined for the maximum amount of alcohol allowed in a beverage nor for the number of beverages that may be served to a single patron at one time.

Has over-service of alcohol affected your life and well-being?

If you or a loved one were injured and you believe over-service of alcohol was a factor, contact Compass Law Group, LLP—the premises liability attorneys in Los Angeles with the knowledge and experience to help you get the compensation you are entitled to. Compass Law Group, LLP offers free consultations, and they can help you wend your way through the complicated laws pertaining to over-service of alcohol in California.


Find out if you have a case in a few minutes, call us at (310) 289-7126

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