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Challenges of Making a Dram Shop Liability Case

Suing dram shops – bars, restaurants, and other establishments serving alcohol – isn’t unheard of in South Carolina. In 2020, a visiting New York resident filed a federal lawsuit against a bar, claiming the bartender had overserved another customer, whose dog attacked her at the bar in 2019. In another case, the organizers of a popular food and wine festival were sued for overserving alcohol that led to one festivalgoer punching another.

South Carolina’s Dram Shop Laws

With the existence of such suits, you might assume that South Carolina has a dram shop law. It does not. However, these claims have been authorized over the years through decisions by the South Carolina Supreme Court. Dram shop claims are generally allowed when someone is served who is underage or intoxicated.

Social Host Liability

In addition to bars and restaurants, many states also hold social hosts liable if they provide alcohol to a guest who then injures someone else. For example, if someone hosts a party at their home, an attendee drinks too much, and then hurts someone in a car crash on the way home, the host could be sued. In South Carolina, courts have limited social host liability to situations involving guests under age 21. In certain circumstances, hosts may also face criminal charges.

Establishing Fault in Dram Shop Cases

To file a civil suit for injuries caused by overserving alcohol, the criminal statutes governing alcohol control are applied. The suit must demonstrate that the establishment continued to serve alcohol to someone they knew was intoxicated.

It’s not only the establishment that can be held liable. Bartenders and servers can be liable if they serve an intoxicated customer. Courts have said that the customer does not have to be visibly drunk in order for a bartender to know that someone is intoxicated or that the customer was underage. South Carolina’s legislature passed a law, effective July 1, 2017, stating that all establishments serving alcohol must carry a $1 million liquor liability policy. This law helps attorneys recover damages for their clients.

Proving the liability of an establishment or server in a civil suit requires an attorney with extensive knowledge of the hospitality industry. They must be able to prove that illegally serving alcohol to the customer resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. The experienced lawyers at Pierce, Sloan, Kennedy & Early LLC have the background to determine whether you have a case and to vigorously fight for maximum compensation.

Potential Damages in South Carolina Dram Liability Cases

Dram cases are civil claims. Like other injury suits, the claim must be filed within three years of the injury, according to South Carolina’s statute of limitations.

Potential economic and non-economic compensatory damages include the following:

  • Lost Wages
  • Medical Bills
  • Property Damage
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Wrongful Death

Additionally, punitive damages are possible. Unlike other injury claims, South Carolina places no limit on punitive damages in alcohol-related cases. Proving that a defendant reached the threshold of recklessness for punitive damages is more difficult than compensatory damages. Alcohol-related cases also are exempt from the state’s modified comparative liability laws. You can collect damages even if you are determined to be 50% or more responsible for the injury.

Experience Can Make the Difference

If you are injured through the carelessness or recklessness of another, you may be entitled to compensation for the economic and personal hardships you have suffered. We are a boutique firm, licensed to handle cases in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Our commitment is to help each client receive the maximum award possible.

Reach us by phone at (843) 968-0886 or by using our online form for a complimentary case evaluation.