May 28, 2024

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Can I Sue a Bar For Serving a Drunk Driver in Pennsylvania?

Under Pennsylvania Law, The Dram Shop Law, 47 P.S. Section 4-493.1 states that it is unlawful for any business “to sell, furnish or give any liquor or malted or brewed beverages, or to permit any liquor or malted or brewed beverages to be sold, furnished or given to any person visibly intoxicated”.

Further, the Statute Law and the case Law, requires that the serving of the visibly intoxicated person must be a cause of injury or damages. “Cause” to successfully sue a bar means that there must be some cause-and-effect relationship between the serving of the drunk driver and the cause of the injury. For example, where a bar serves someone who is visibly intoxicated then the person gets in his car and rear ends someone else 10 minutes later, there is likely “cause” of damages to be able to sue the bar in a civil case and recover. The further in time to when the injury occurs, makes proof of cause to sue a bar less likely or clear. It need not be the only cause, but “a” cause that without it, would render the injury/damages less likely to occur.

So, in a situation where a person leaves a bar, then causes injury to himself or another person, the bar can be found responsible for civil damages. The damages can include: bodily injury, pain and suffering, wage loss, medical bills, consortium claim of a spouse, loss of life’s enjoyment, future lost earnings.

The key question about whether you can successfully sue the bar for serving a drunk driver, is being able to prove that the bar served the drunk driver while he was visibly intoxicated. This can be proven by direct evidence such as eyewitnesses at the bar (for example: other patrons, persons who the drunk driver was with, the bar employees, etc). Sometimes this witness evidence is tough to get because the patrons were also drinking or are loyal to the bar, and the bartenders are often going to side with the bar for obvious reasons. Another way to successfully sue a bar is to do so via circumstantial evidence, which is permitted in Pennsylvania. Examples would be the blood alcohol test results of the drunk driver along with at least some fact or facts that would support visible intoxication such as stumbling, loud behavior, slurred speech, etc in or close to the time the drunk driver was at the bar and served.