Dram Shop Liability Law Being Considered in Maryland

March 19, 2013

Dram is a small unit of liquid. Dram shop refers to a bar or tavern where alcoholic beverages are sold. Dram shop liability is when an establishment can be held liable for selling alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons and/or minors, which then cause death or injury to a third party as a result of alcohol-related automobile crashes and other accidents.

Dram shop laws are intended to protect the general public and innocent people from the hazards of serving alcohol to minors and intoxicated patrons. Serving alcohol to minors in the United States is illegal. All 50 states consider it illegal to sell and or serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.

The argument against dram shop liability is that a person, drunk or sober, should be responsible for his/her own behavior and actions. Also, bar, tavern and restaurants owners believe that if dram shop laws go into effect in Maryland that insurance premiums would rise, prices for customers would rise and therefore some business would have to close. Also, some people argue that there is no way for a bartender to know if a patron had drank somewhere else before or after coming to their business, or had used drugs.

There are other people who suggest that there has to be some accountability for a situation that is created or made worse by the action or inaction of the bar and or tavern.

The Court of Appeals in Maryland has recently heard several arguments in dram shop liability cases and will start considering whether to implement dram shop liability, which would in turn make bars, taverns and restaurants liable for customers involved in drunk-driving cases. But even without dram shop liability in Maryland, there seems to be a growing trend of Maryland cases recognizing tavern liability when there is additional action or inaction by the tavern that contributes to the occurrence or makes the situation worse. If a Dram Shop law does go into effect in Maryland it would go against over 60 years of judicial precedent.

Maryland and Virginia are a few of the states that still do not have any kind of dram shop liability law in affect. Maryland does not currently hold businesses responsible for serving too much alcohol to its patrons. 44 states in the United States and the District of Columbia do have some form of dram shop laws, although they differ in scope and in the evidence required for holding a business responsible for other's actions.