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Florida’s Dram Shop Law


Put simply, a dram shop law imposes legal liability on any establishment when it serves alcohol to a person that is visibly intoxicated. These laws force bars, taverns, and restaurants to internalize the costs of damage when one of their intoxicated patrons goes out and injures someone. Many dram shop laws also impose penalties when an establishment sells alcohol to a minor.

Florida has its own dram shop law that can come in handy if you were injured in a car accident by a drunk driver. Read on for more information.

Florida’s Dram Shop Law—Very Narrow

Although Florida has a dram shop law (Florida Statute 768.125), the first thing you need to know is that it is very narrow in scope. While some states impose liability on any establishment that sells alcohol to an intoxicated person, Florida takes the opposite approach. In fact, it exempts business from liability but for two narrow exceptions:

  • The establishment sells alcohol to a minor. The establishment will be strictly liable for any injuries caused by the patron. So if a bar sells beer to someone who is 19, and this person goes out and crashes into a pedestrian, the pedestrian can usually sue the bar.
  • The establishment sells alcohol to someone who has a reputation for being habitually addicted to alcohol. It’s not enough that the patron be drunk at the time of sale. Instead, he or she must have a reputation for being a habitual drunk.

In either of these situations, someone injured because of the intoxicated patron can sue the establishment that served him for compensation, but they will need compelling proof, especially of a reputation for drunkenness.

No Social Host Liability, Either

Minors are probably just as likely to get alcohol from an adult they know than from a restaurant or bar. For example, a bunch of high school students might party with a friend who is 21 or older and who supplies the alcohol.

In some states, this private person who provides alcohol can be sued for any injuries caused under a “social host” liability theory. Unfortunately, Florida does not allow victims to bring these types of lawsuits for private gatherings.

Our state’s approach is somewhat shocking, since the host is breaking the law and should reasonably foresee that intoxicated minors will end up hurting someone. Although the host can have his or her license suspended for providing alcohol, an injured victim cannot sue the host.

Were You Injured by a Drunk Driver?

Accident victims should be able to recover meaningful compensation when a drunk driver crashes into them on the road. At Earnhart Law, we pursue all available sources of compensation, including using the state’s dram shop law to bring lawsuits where appropriate.

If you have a question, please contact us today. We have deep experience with car accident cases and are happy to answer any questions you have. Schedule your free consultation by calling 561-265-2220. One of our Delray Beach car accident lawyers will be happy to meet with you.


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