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Bars and restaurants may be held liable for over-service

Pennsylvania Dram Shop statutes define the scope of liability for the owner/operator of a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol in the event that an injury is suffered by someone as a result of over-serving a customer. An entity may not be held liable for injuries suffered by a third party that occur off the entity's premises unless the injury is inflicted by a patron who was served alcohol while he or she was visibly intoxicated. The law is clear that serving alcohol to an individual who is obviously intoxicated opens an entity to potential liability.

An entity that is licensed to serve alcohol may face civil penalties under Dram Shop statutes if it serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person and that person subsequently causes injury to another. While the statute does not define "visible intoxication," the courts have held that a person must exhibit visible signs of intoxication, such as slurring of speech or staggering, before being served his or her last drink in order for an establishment to be held liable.

A person must further prove that the patron who was over-served directly caused the injuries as a result of that over-service. For example, a bar patron who is served when he or she is in an obvious drunken state may then get into a car and drives, causing an accident and injuries to a third party. While the intoxicated party will face liability, the entity who served him or her may also be held responsible.

Attorneys who are knowledgeable in premises liability law may be able to provide needed advice to persons injured in such circumstance. Seeking the advice of an attorney may assist in the navigation of legal issues surrounding such an incident.

Source: NCSL, "DRAM SHOP CIVIL LIABILITY AND CRIMINAL PENALTY STATE STATUTES", October 23, 2014

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