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Dram Shop Laws in Pennsylvania

September 20, 2016

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

In Pennsylvania, bars, restaurants, and liquor stores that sell alcohol can be held liable if an intoxicated customer’s reckless conduct causes injuries or death. Section 47 P. S. § 4-497 of the Pennsylvania Liquor Code, also known as a dram shop law, holds establishments liable if they served alcohol to a guest that was visibly intoxicated and that guest caused an accident that injured or killed someone else, for example. The last person who served alcohol to the visibly intoxicated guest can be held responsible for any personal injuries, as well.

Dram Shop Laws Lead to Complicated Lawsuits

These laws can cause complication when the intoxicated guest ends up being the injured victim after being over-served alcoholic beverages. MTV was successful in winning a case in Chester County PA for the widow and the Estate of a man who died in a one car crash after being served alcohol to the point of being drunk. The bar paid.

The Details

The family of the deceased claimed that he went to a local pizza pub and drank enough beer and shots to get him to a BAC level of .18 (more than twice the legal limit in PA). After leaving the Bar, he drove down a country road and into a tree. He died upon impact. (Witnesses, including a hostess and another bartender that were at the bar that night, testified in court that he was visibly intoxicated.)

The Catch

It was a small neighborhood bar. No one wanted to get involved. An investigation was conducted,

And an expert Toxicologist was hired. The toxicologist was able to prove that when the bar kept serving him the booze there came a point in time when it was visible to anyone that they were serving more booze to a drunk man. He was so drunk he lost his ability to think and reason.

Initially, Mr. Mercado’s attorney sought the total policy limits of both bars, which was $12 million, reminding the defendants that a jury could return a verdict that exceeded $50 million. Additionally, the cost of care over the course of Mr. Mercado’s lifetime for his injuries was estimated to be around $34 million. However, Mr. Mercado’s lawyer was also aware that a jury in this type of case could find Mr. Mercado, who was driving drunk, more than 50 percent at fault, which would result in him receiving absolutely no compensation for his injuries.

The Settlement

After several days of mediation a large confidential settlement was reached. The amount of money recovered was enough to insure that his wife would always have a roof over her head and that his children would not have to worry about who was going to pay for college tuition.

Have You Been Injured?

Like most personal injury cases, dram shop liability is difficult to prove. If you have been injured in an accident that falls under dram shop laws, you will need a Philadelphia lawyer who has extensive experience in this area of the law, which is more intricate than personal injury. Contact van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim to discuss the details of your case today.


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