Dram Shop Law in North Carolina Places Liability for Drunk Driving Accidents on the Establishment Serving Alcohol to Patrons

Asheville car accident attorneys understand the old school meaning of dram shop in colonial times meant a shop where spirits were sold by the dram. In this case, dram is a small unit of liquid, spirits is a beverage containing alcohol, and shop is a bar, tavern, restaurant or any establishment that serves alcohol.

Back in 2007, WRAL reported that the North Carolina Supreme Court took on the responsibility to better define dram shop liability laws after a 1997 incident in Durham was settled in court in 2004 in which a restaurant was held financially liable by a jury for the death of a customer who left their establishment drunk and was later killed that same evening in a drunk driving accident in North Carolina.
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The law at that time was that bars or restaurants that served alcohol were only obligated to stop serving someone they knew was drunk. The case escalated a great debate over whether an establishment should be responsible for determining when someone has had too much to drink to the point of taking their keys away or making sure they have a cab ride home as opposed to a patron being responsible enough to stop drinking well before the time of getting behind the wheel to drive home.

Currently, North Carolina is one of 43 states that have a dram shop law of some degree in place, which holds an establishment serving alcohol liable if something happens as a result of serving alcohol to a patron on their premises. Any incident that involves personal injury, death, or property damage as a direct result of serving alcohol to a customer can lead to strict financial liability for the bar, restaurant, night club or alcohol-serving establishment.

In the news recently is the 2008 single car accident which killed the intoxicated driver and her two passengers after leaving a bar in Carolina Beach. The North Carolina Court of Appeals determined the incident fell under the North Carolina Dram Shop Act and held the establishment financially liable for the accident killing the three drunk driving victims.

The driver who was only 20-years-old had been permitted to drink at the bar prior to the crash. The plaintiff, a family member of one of the passengers killed, sued for wrongful death against the bar in which a settlement agreement was reached for damages and liability.

The appeal was based on the bar seeking compensatory damages against the deceased driver’s estate arguing that they should be joint and several in the liability with the driver owning part negligence and liable for their own actions. Both the trial court and Court of Appeals rejected the argument made by the bar and found no legal grounds to seek contribution from the estate.

Drunk driving victims can suffer severe damages both in personal injury or property damage and should seek legal counsel immediately.

If your or a loved one has been seriously or fatally injured in a drunk driving accident in North Carolina, contact the car accident attorneys at the Lee Law Offices, P.A. to grasp a full understanding of your rights and what action can be taken to be compensated for your loss. Call 1-800-887-1965 for a free and confidential appointment.

Additional Resources:
State’s High Court to Consider Dram-Shop Liability Laws, by Julia Lewis, WRAL.

Driving Sober on Holiday Weekends Can Reduce the Risk of Drunk Driving Accidents in North Carolina, Nationwide, North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Blog, September 5, 2011.

Drunk Driving Accidents in Charlotte Often Caused by Habitual Offenders, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, July 30, 2011.

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