Drunk driving laws are well known. But you might not know that Utah has a Dram Shop Liability Law which allow victims and their families to hold bars, hotels and other alcohol retailers accountable for the actions of the patrons they overserve alcohol to.
QUESTION: DOES UTAH HAVE DRAM SHOP LAWS?
ANSWER: YES. See the Utah Alcoholic Product Liability Act. Utah Code Ann. 32B-15-1 (2021).
WHAT IS THE LEGAL STANDARD IN DRAM SHOP CASES?
An alcohol serving establishment (bar, hotel, etc) is liable for the injuries a drunk person causes if that drunk person was overserved alcohol at their business and then hurts someone. This often occurs when the bar overserves alcohol to a blatantly drunk person who later drives and kills someone. The heirs or the hurt person will have a Utah wrongful death or injury lawsuit against the drunk driver and the bar.
Currently as of 06/26/2021 Utah’s Dramshop statute of limitation is two years from the date of loss. As with any statute of limitations, you should always check with a Utah injury attorney to preserve your legal rights. Statute of limitations are riddled with exceptions.
DAMAGE CAPS IN UTAH DRAM SHOP INJURY LAWSUITS.
1 million per person against the alcohol serving establishment, hotel, bar or vendor.
2 million per occurrence, regardless of how many people were injured as a result of the alcohol serving establishments hurts by overserving people. See Utah Code Ann. 32B-15-301(2) (2021).
The damages cap doesn’t apply to the drunk, overserved person, who caused the car accident or injuries. See Utah Code Ann. 32B-15-301(4) (2021). That cause of action for damage is separate from the lawsuit against the alcohol serving establishment.
UTAH’S DRAMSHOP LAWS NOT APPLICABLE TO:
Utah’s Dramshop liability laws do not apply to a business licensed in accordance with Chapter 7, Off-Premise Beer Retailer Act, to sell beer at retail only for off-premise consumption. Sounds like the Beer Gardens get a free ride.
Dramshop, overserving violations do occur and here are some examples:
Example 1. Overserving Alcohol. A dive bar continues to serve alcohol to a clearly intoxicated person who was passed out in the bathroom, throwing up and then came back to the counter and asked for more beer. The patron was served and then drove his car killing a young woman.
The deceased young woman’s heirs have a claim against the drunk driver and the bar that overserved the drunk driver. The drunk driver will often have car insurance to pay for the wrongful death damages and the bar will have insurance policies to pay for the Dramshop wrongful death damages.
Example 2. Serving an “Interdicted Person.” You can’t serve alcohol to a known “interdicted person.” An interdicted person is some who can’t be sold alcohol legally in Utah. The bar owner knows that the person they are serving is an interdicted person and serve them alcohol anyways. The interdicted person then kills someone with their car after leaving the bar.
Example 3. Serving a Known Underage Minor Alcohol. The bar waiter knowingly serves alcohol to a minor who later hurts someone while driving home.
COMMON EVIDENCE IN A DRAM SHOP CASE CAN CONSIST OF:
Proof of age was never requested via ID.
Service of alcohol to a minor who is known to be a minor or clearly is a minor.
Service of alcohol to a person who was clearly drunk.
Allowing a visibly intoxicated person to leave and drive home.
Bar video security footage showing the patron visible too drunk to be served more alcohol.
DOES UTAH’S DRAM SHOP ACT APPLY TO SOCIAL HOSTS?
Probable not. Social hosts are people who provide alcohol to their guests when they entertain, whether at their house, camping or in a hotel room. Although social hosts are probable not subject to Utah’s Dram Shop laws they still need to use good judgment and act responsibly when serving alcohol to guests.
A social host would likely be held responsible if they overserve their guests and a guest drives and hurts someone. A jury would not look favorable upon the host for their actions.
CONTACT A DRAM SHOP ATTORNEY JAKE GUNTER. CALL / TXT (801) 373-6345