Insureon Blog

Maryland Courts: No Dram Shop Laws for the Old Line State

31. July 2013 15:03

In most of the country, “dram shop” laws dictate that if restaurants and bars serve alcohol to patrons, they can be held liable for some liquor-related incidents. For example, if a bar serves a customer drinks and they leave the bar and cause a drunk-driving accident, the bar may be held partially liable in states with dram shop laws. 

But in seven states (Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, and South Dakota), there are no dram shop laws: bars and restaurants assume no liability if a patron they serve alcohol to causes an incident. In light of a case of drinking-related manslaughter, Maryland’s highest court recently recommended that the state’s legislature reconsider whether or not bars and restaurants can be held liable. 

Here’s a look at what happened in the case and what the ruling means for owners of bars and restaurants. 

No Liquor Liability in Drunk Driving Manslaughter Case 

In 2008, according to the Washington Post, Michael Eaton was drinking at Dogfish Head Alehouse. Here’s what happened next: 

Even though many states require bars to stop serving patrons who are visibly intoxicated, Maryland doesn’t have dram shop laws. So, there was no legal ground for the court to hold the bar liable for the accident and death. 

However, in its ruling, the court recommended Maryland reconsider a dram shop laws, which is hasn’t done in about 30 years. Since then attitudes toward drunk driving have changed significantly, and the court believes adding a dram law to reflect that might be needed.

Liquor Liability for Your Bar or Restaurant

So how might the Maryland case affect your restaurant or bar? If nothing else, it may bring dram shop law lobbying in states that don’t currently have them. And it serves as an excellent opportunity to refresh your memory about how liquor liability works in most of the country:

Visit our restaurant insurance website to download our free eBook "Liquor Liability Insurance? I'll Drink to That: A Complete Guide to Serving and Hosting Responsibly".

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Restaurants | Risk Management | Small Business Risk Management

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