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Alcohol-Related Injuries / Dram Shop

Over 10,000 people die every year in alcohol-related crashes in the U.S., and hundreds of thousands more are injured.  The personal injury and wrongful death trial attorneys at Kenny, Brimmer & Mahoney, LLC represent clients in alcohol-related injury cases throughout the state of Connecticut.

While the injured person may sue the negligent driver who caused the accident, there are times when the person or entity who sold the alcohol is exposed to liability as well.  In Connecticut, state law holds sellers of alcohol liable when they sell alcohol to an intoxicated person who then causes injuries to another.  This type of liability is known as Dram Shop Liability.

Dram Shop Liability

The term dram shop originates from 18th Century England, where “gin-shops” sold homemade gin by the dram (or spoonful).  Today, dram shops could include the following types of establishments that dispense alcohol:

  • Bars
  • Liquor stores
  • Restaurants
  • Social clubs

Private events where liquor is sold might also be considered dram shops in some instances.

In Connecticut, dram shops must comply with specific laws known as the Dram Shop Act.  This law imposes liability on any person who sells any alcoholic liquor to an intoxicated person who thereafter injures another person or property due to intoxication.  The seller is liable for damages to the injured person up to  $250,000.

The Dram Shop Act outlines several procedures specific to an action to recover damages, including a statute of limitations which is much shorter than the two years normally allowed in a personal injury lawsuit.  Any individual who intends to file a claim against a dram shop for personal or property injuries must file notice within 120 days of the date of the injury.  In the case of a death or incapacity, notice must be filed within 180 days.  If notice is not filed, a claim cannot be made against a dram shop for damages.  Even if notice is filed within the proper time frame, the action against the dram shop must be brought within one year of the act that caused the injury.

Proof of Negligence

Liability under the Dram Shop Act does not require proof of negligence or fault on the part of the seller.  However, in addition to the Dram Shop Act, the Connecticut courts have also recognized a common law right to sue the seller for negligence.  In a common law case, the plaintiff would have to prove that the seller was negligent, but the plaintiff would not be bound by the notice procedures, shortened statute of limitations, and damages caps of the Dram Shop Act.

Although  the court recognized/created this common law cause of action, the legislature has since amended the Dram Shop Act to prohibit such a negligence cause of action against a dram shop for “negligence in the sale of alcoholic liquor to a person twenty-one years of age or older.”  This change drastically limited the judge-made negligence cause of action, so that most cases will still be brought under the authority and procedures of the Dram Shop Act.

Seek Experienced Legal Representation

Kenny, Brimmer & Mahoney has been representing clients in personal injury matters since 1952, and our attorneys have over 100 years of combined legal experience in the field.  If you are involved in a case implicating dram shop liability and are in the need of quality, professional representation, contact Kenny, Brimmer & Mahoney, LLC to speak with one of our lawyers.

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    Wethersfield, Connecticut 06109
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