Serving alcohol can be a lucrative business model. Bars, restaurants and other service-based venues can provide alcoholic beverages to customers if they secure licenses to businesses to allow for the regulated dispensation of alcohol. Businesses have to properly train their staff on how to comply with state law to maintain their ability to lawfully serve alcohol. Generally, a business does not incur liability for what consumers do with the goods or services that it provides to the public. However, there are some exceptions to that rule.
Inappropriate alcohol service practices could be one of the scenarios in which a business may assume liability for what its customers do. When might a Minnesota bar or restaurant have some legal and financial responsibility for a drunk driving crash?
Liability begins with rule violations
To hold a business responsible for the actions of others, people generally need to establish that the business did something inappropriate. Minnesota has dram shop laws that specifically create liability for businesses licensed to sell alcohol when they break the rules limiting the service of alcohol. Perhaps the most obvious scenario in which a business would be liable for a customer’s actions would be when the workers at the restaurant serve a minor who is not yet 21 alcoholic beverages. If that underage driver leaves and causes a crash, the business could be partially culpable.
There is also a rule that applies when a driver legally able to purchase alcohol causes a drunk driving crash. Alcohol service rules require that bartenders and wait staff cease providing alcohol to those who are already visibly intoxicated. If the business kept serving someone who was obviously drunk, then there could be some liability for the business if that patron leaves and causes a crash.
Why file a dram shop claim?
In theory, those affected by a drunk driving crash have the option of filing and insurance claim or possibly even a lawsuit against the person who caused the wreck. Sadly, individuals often do not have sufficient personal resources to cover all of the costs of a major collision.
Businesses tend to have more assets and also higher value insurance policies than individuals do. A dram shop claim could, therefore, be the best way for those affected by a drunk driving crash to demand justice from those who contributed to an injurious incident. Ultimately, seeking legal guidance and learning about Minnesota’s dram shop laws may help those affected by a crash more effectively pursue justice after a serious wreck.