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Is a bar owner at fault in a Minnesota drunk driving case?

| Apr 27, 2018 | Blog

In a typical drunk driving case where the driver causes an accident and the courts find him or her negligent, it is generally a straightforward process to showing that the impaired driving caused the accident. However, if the driver got behind the wheel after an establishment such as a bar or restaurant served the driver after he or she was already visibly intoxicated, this brings another important element into the overall case.

Minnesota law takes into account liability for people who furnish alcoholic beverages illegally and defines the parameters within which that may be the case. As a result, a bar owner or other person who illegally serves alcohol may be liable for a motor vehicle crash or other accident caused by a drunk patron.

Minnesota dram shop/social liability cases 

The particular type of liability that comes into play when a person illegally furnishes alcoholic beverages is known under Minnesota state law as dram shop and social host liquor liability. While this sounds like quite a mouthful, the basic premise is that people who provide alcoholic beverages under circumstances considered illegal according to state law can be liable. These two examples include serving alcohol to people under age 21 (social host liability) or selling alcohol illegally more generally, including to people under age 21, to people visibly intoxicated, and selling alcohol after hours.

Who can bring a dram shop case?

Dram shop cases come about when a plaintiff decides to sue the bar owner or other person who illegally provided the alcohol. The law states that the person who provided the alcohol does not necessarily have to be a licensed establishment but rather any seller who makes an illegal sale. The law states that court action must be taken within a two-year statute of limitations, and action can be brought by a person who was injured, suffered property damage, a loss in monetary support or other pecuniary damage.

The first step to take in determining whether a dram shop case is necessary is to consult with an attorney who handles dram shop cases. The attorney can help determine the specifics of the potential case and how to proceed under Minnesota state law to recover compensation for the plaintiff who suffered an injury or financial damage.

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