Georgia’s Dram Shop Act and How It Affects People Injured by Drunk Drivers

Posted by Richard Lawson | Apr 16, 2017 | 0 Comments

If you are in an accident due to drunk driving in Georgia, you may be able to seek damages under the Dram Shop Act. Georgia's Dram Shop Act applies to bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to minors or noticeably intoxicated people who will be driving. However, in 2011, Georgia expanded the Act to include convenience stores specifically grocery stores, gas stations, and liquor stores. All states have Dram Shop laws, but the specifics differ from state to state.  The Dram Shop Act was enacted to try and prevent drunk driving accidents when the store owner could clearly tell the person was intoxicated. 

The Georgia Dram Shop Act (O.C.G.A. §51-1-40(b) reads as follows: 

A person who sells, furnishes, or serves alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury, death, or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person, including injury or death to other persons. 

However, there are some exceptions to this rule of no liability: 

  • If the person served was underage. If someone is under 21 and a restaurant, a bar, or a convenience store gives them alcohol, then the establishment is breaking the law.  
  • If the store owner or bartender knew the customer would be driving soon. If the bartender knows that one of his customers will be driving shortly, then he must cut them off if he wants to avoid being liable for their subsequent acts. However, how to determine if a customer is about to leave can be speculative. Any evidence that the patron said, “let's go” or "I am ready to leave" would be sufficient to put the bartender on notice that the person will be leaving soon. 
  • If they sell to someone who is noticeably intoxicated and who will be driving, they will likely be found liable under the Dram Shop Act. Most bartenders can determine whether someone is drunk or not. If the person is not driving, then they are not liable for continuing to serve them, but they will be liable if the person leaves and drives.  

In 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a study where actors simulated being intoxicated and attempted to buy alcohol at a variety of businesses. 76% of the bars and restaurants and 83% of the retail stores still sold alcohol to the actors even though they appeared visibly intoxicated.

Dram Shop laws allow individuals injured by an adult or a minor who is under the influence of alcohol to recover damages from the alcohol retailer who served or sold alcohol to the person causing the injury. However, it can be difficult to win on this basis. Juries tend to think that people should be responsible for their actions and it can be hard to convince them that someone else should be responsible for their injuries. Ultimately, we are responsible for our actions, but Georgia allows for intoxicated people to recover damages from owners of drinking establishments if they were served more alcohol knowing they would be driving.

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If you have received a DUI or been arrested for drunk driving in the state of Georgia, contact our Georgia DUI Attorneys immediately. Our office is exclusively a Georgia DUI Defense Firm, with decades of experience in defending DUI cases. We are ready to assist with your case so call us today for a free case evaluation.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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