Can you sue whoever sold you the alcohol that resulted in your DUI?
You may wonder whether or not a location that served the alcohol consumed by the defendant in a DUI can be sued. Like some handgun lawsuits, where families have sued those that sold the weapon used to cause injury, the theory is that if it were not for the serving of alcohol, the person would not have become intoxicated, and thus would not have become DUI. So can you sue whoever sold you the alcohol that resulted in your DUI? Are they liable? Let’s discuss that issue.
Dram Shop Acts and Liability for DUI.
In states other than California, some jurisdictions have adopted what is called a “Dram Shop Act”. A Dram Shop Act is a law that lets victims and the families of victims sue the bar or establishment that served alcohol to a drunken individual that subsequently injured someone in a drunken driving accident.
In those other states, alcohol infractions are regulated by the Department of Revenue, or the Beverage Control Bureau (here in California, alcohol licenses are granted by the California Alcohol Beverage Commission), who has the authority to revoke bars and bartenders of their licenses if they are found to be repeatedly over-serving. Those states hold servers or sellers of alcohol “strictly liable” for any outcomes from drinking under the law.
Liability for serving alcohol that leads to a DUI and California Law.
California does not have a Dram Shop Act. However, studies show that states that have a Dram Shop Act tend to rarely enforce this particular law. That may be in many cases due to resources, or due to the public or societal attitudes about the law. It has also been suggested that focusing on the servers, bureaus and commissions responsible for alcohol are a poor way to make sure that persons do not consume from a variety of sources, as each location can only control the amounts they serve.
In California, a bar, or restaurant, could possibly be sued if they failed to follow the law (for example, serving persons under 21), or were negligent in hiring, training, or avoiding foreseeable harm to others. Only Business & Professions Code §25602 in California, which protects persons under 21, places liability on the establishment that serves an obviously intoxicated underage drinks, who then, in turn, injures another.
Under California law, however, it is extremely difficult to find liability with the bartender or establishment that sold or served the liquor consumed. California case law states that the consumption of alcohol, not the serving of alcohol, is the primary factor in DUIs. The person’s judgment in deciding to consume alcohol in the first place puts personal responsibility on the driver, and the DMV’s rules regarding DUI, as well as the California State Criminal laws making driving above a .08% alcohol blood content, or while driving under the influence of alcohol or any other substance illegal, places that responsibility firmly on the person driving the vehicle.
So can you sue whoever sold you the alcohol that resulted in your DUI? As a matter of civil law, if you can find negligence in the failure of a restaurant, liquor store, or other establishments, to live up to a duty, there might be liability. There could also be a potential criminal liability for bartenders or others that spike drinks, as that is a crime in California, and would lead to the DUI defense of involuntary intoxication.
If you find yourself facing a DUI in Orange County, contact our firm. Our team of Orange County DUI Attorneys are experienced in handling cases in court and at the DMV and can help you plan a strategy for your case. Contact us today.