Liquor liability, or “Dram Shop,” laws govern the liability of individuals and entities, such as bars, restaurants, fraternal organizations, clubs, and property owners in the sale and service of alcoholic beverages to patrons and customers. These laws determine liability of these businesses stemming from the service of alcoholic beverages, and specifically, service to visibly intoxicated persons (“VIP’s”) or minors.
Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey maintain statutes which form the foundation for causes of action against alcohol licensees and/or their owners, managers, and employees. Liquor liability and dram shop cases often involve catastrophic injuries. Whether the damages arise from DUI-related crashes, assaults or simple fall downs, service of alcohol can expose businesses, their stakeholders, and employees to significant liability. Alcohol-related accidents and events frequently attract public attention, press coverage, and are often the focus of criminal and/or administrative investigations and proceedings.
Post & Schell’s Liquor Liability Practice Group handles matters throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We understand the nuances of liquor liability laws and have litigated and tried to verdict liquor liability matters in both states. And, our attorneys are frequently called upon to conduct time-sensitive investigations and analysis prior to litigation. The Group also provides liquor liability and dram shop laws consultation services using insight gleaned from its litigation experience and is well-positioned to counsel licensees on training issues and alcohol service procedures.
Select members of the Group, including Co-Chairs Robert J. Balch and Patrick C. Lamb, are certified by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s (PLCB) Responsible Alcohol Management Program (RAMP). Our attorneys have presented on trends in liquor liability law to insurers, businesses, and clients.
We represent businesses and individuals facing potential exposure under liquor liability and dram shop laws, including:
- Bars & Taverns
- Catering Companies
- Fraternal Organizations
- Hotels, Motels & Resorts
- Country Clubs
- Sports Facilities & Complexes
The Group’s representative matters often involve cases with complex issues and catastrophic injuries and damages, with criminally-charged co-defendants. Our attorneys are frequently called upon to handle matters on short notice. Representative matters include:
- Successfully tried Dram Shop liability state court action to defense verdict on behalf of country club sued for alleged over-service of patron, who after leaving the premises, struck two individuals, resulting in dual fatalities. Pre-trial settlement demand was in the mid-seven figures and punitive damages were demanded.
- Representation of restaurant that allegedly overserved patron, who crashed his sports car into a wooded area. Suit was filed to recover for the loss of the celebrity and his passenger. This matter had significant publicity when it occurred. A favorable confidential settlement was reached.
- Reached favorable settlement in a federal court Dram Shop case in which patron was allegedly over-served and was later involved in an automobile accident, resulting in paralysis from the neck down. In the face of a settlement demand in the eight-figure range, including punitive damages claims against the individual client and server of the patron, favorable settlement was reached.
- Obtained favorable ruling narrowly construing Pennsylvania’s “Dram Shop” statute as precluding “common law” claims such as improper security, failure to supervise patrons, and failure to prevent intoxicated patron from leaving premises.
- Obtained favorable settlements and results in both state and federal forums on behalf of numerous other taverns, clubs and “after hours” locations sued for alleged over-service of patrons, improper procedures, assaults, and lack of security.
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