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Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

Florida personal injury lawyers



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    Understanding the Impact of Florida’s Dram Shop Laws

    Dram shop laws are intended to create a deterrence to bars and restaurants over-serving alcohol to patrons, who then go on to drive or cause other harm. The idea is that such establishments are in the best position to limit the amount served or take some care in preventing drunks from getting behind the wheel.  Many states hold alcohol sellers responsible if they over serve someone who then causes injury or death.

    Florida adopts a more limited approach than most states, holding establishments accountable only in specific scenarios. This can be chalked up to Florida being a tourist economy and the result of a strong lobby by the hotel and restaurant (hospitality) industry.

    The cornerstone of Florida’s Dram Shop laws is embedded in Florida Statute Section 768.125. Typically, an establishment is not liable for injuries or damages caused by or resulting from the intoxication of a person of lawful drinking age.

    However, there are exceptions to this general rule, which are critical for establishments to be aware of:

    1. Serving Alcohol to Minors: If an establishment serves alcohol to a minor (under the legal drinking age), and the minor subsequently causes harm to themselves or others, the establishment may be held liable.
    2. Serving Individuals Known to be “Habitually Addicted to Alcohol”: If an establishment serves alcohol to individuals known (to the establishment) to be habitually addicted to alcohol, and those individuals subsequently cause injury or damage, the establishment may be held liable.

    Otherwise hotels, restaurants and bars are not responsible for over-serving intoxicated patrons in Florida.

    Additional Thoughts on Florida’s Dram Shop Laws

    In addition to liability for serving alcohol to minors and individuals known to be habitually addicted to alcohol, several other facets of the Dram Shop laws deserve attention:

    • Burden of Proof: The burden of proof falls primarily on the plaintiff in legal disputes arising from Dram Shop laws. They must demonstrate that the establishment indeed served alcohol to a minor or to an individual known to be habitually addicted to alcohol and that this act directly led to the injuries or damages sustained.
    • Consequences for Establishments: Establishments found violating the Dram Shop laws could face severe legal and financial repercussions. This may include hefty fines, legal fees, and potential loss of liquor licenses, which could significantly impact the establishment’s reputation and bottom line.
    • Preventative Measures: To mitigate the risks of legal liabilities, establishments can adopt several preventative measures:
      • Rigorously checking IDs to verify the age of patrons.
      • Being vigilant about regular patrons known to have alcohol addiction issues.
      • Implementing a designated driver program to promote safe transportation options.
      • Employing security personnel to manage disruptive or overly intoxicated patrons.
      • Ensuring a well-monitored and safe environment within the establishment to prevent accidents.
    • Insurance Considerations: Insurance coverage is a prudent consideration for establishments. Policies that cover claims arising from alcohol-related incidents could provide a financial safety net. Establishments should consult with insurance providers to understand the extent of coverage provided under different policies and ensure they are adequately protected against potential Dram Shop law claims.

    Potential Injuries Stemming from Dram Shop Violations

    Violations of Florida’s Dram Shop laws can result in a wide array of injuries or damages, impacting not only the intoxicated individuals but also innocent third parties. Here’s a breakdown of potential injuries:

    • Vehicle Accidents: One of the most common repercussions of serving alcohol to individuals who shouldn’t be served is vehicle accidents, often leading to severe or fatal injuries.
    • Physical Assault and Altercations: Overly intoxicated individuals may become aggressive or violent, leading to physical altercations that can result in serious injuries.
    • Slip and Fall Accidents: Establishments may face liability if an intoxicated individual falls and sustains injuries, especially if it can be proved that the fall was a result of over-serving alcohol.
    • Property Damage: Drunken individuals might cause significant property damage, either within the establishment or elsewhere.
    • Alcohol Poisoning: Over-serving alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning, a serious and potentially life-threatening condition.
    • Third-Party Injuries: Innocent bystanders or third parties can be severely injured by the actions of intoxicated individuals, whether through vehicle accidents, physical assault, or other forms of recklessness.
    • Wrongful Death: In the worst scenarios, violations of Dram Shop laws can result in fatalities, whether due to vehicle accidents, violence, or alcohol poisoning.

    These potential injuries underscore establishments’ grave responsibility in adhering to Dram Shop laws. The financial, legal, and moral implications of violating these laws are substantial, highlighting the importance of strict compliance to ensure the safety and well-being of patrons and the broader community.

    Taking Action: Protect Your Rights

    Navigating the complexities of Dram Shop laws in Florida can be challenging, especially in the face of injury or loss. Understanding your rights is crucial.

    If you or a loved one has suffered due to a Dram Shop violation, legal recourse may be available. Engaging an experienced personal injury attorney can help unravel the legal intricacies involved and chart a course toward justice and compensation.

    Contact Leighton Panoff Law for a free consultation to discuss your case and understand your rights under Florida’s Dram Shop laws. We have successfully represented victims of people who were over-served and caused death and serious injuries.  Although these are complex cases, Leighton Panoff Law has experience in navigating the legal and factual complexities of these cases.  We recently obtained a substantial recovery for the family of a woman who was struck and killed by a drunk driver who had just left a bar. We have recovered over $1 million for a man who was on a motorcycle when he was hit by an intoxicated man outside a bar.  These are just examples of some of the Dram Shop cases we have handled, but provide an idea about what these cases entail.


    Disclaimer: The information about past verdicts and settlements of the firm`s cases are based on the unique facts of each case. These amounts reflect the gross recovery in each case (before attorneys fees, expenses and medical costs are deducted).  Although these results were obtained by our firm, they may not indicate the success or value of any other case.  By clicking on Verdicts and Settlements you are acknowledging that each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. The information contained here has not been reviewed or approved by The Florida Bar.

    Article by:

    John Leighton

    A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite


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