Overserved and Out of Luck – Georgia’s Dram Shop Law May Not Allow the Consumer to Recover From Bar That Overserves Alcohol

What can be done when someone willingly drugs one of your loved ones and that loved one ends up dead? If the drug in question is alcohol, the answer is, perhaps not much.

In Georgia, his family will most likely have no recourse or claim against the establishment who overserved him. We see this in the matter of Dion v. Y.S.G. Enters., 296 Ga. 185 (2014).

In this case a man drank constantly for more than 8 hours in a sports bar. Shortly thereafter he wrecked his car and was killed. The man’s widow brought a wrongful death suit against the bar where he was overserved but she was surprised, no doubt, at the outcome.

Subtitle: Georgia's Dram Shop Act

Georgia’s Dram Shop Act, O.C.G.A. § 51-1-40(a) and (b) (2010) states the following:

The General Assembly finds and declares that the consumption of alcoholic beverages, rather than the sale or furnishing or serving of such beverages, is the proximate cause of any injury, including death and property damage, inflicted by an intoxicated person upon himself or upon another person, except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this Code section” and “Nothing contained in this Code section shall authorize the consumer of any alcoholic beverage to recover from the provider of such alcoholic beverage for injuries or damages suffered by the consumer.”

Put in layman’s terms, the family and estate of the man who did the drinking may not bring a claim against the person or business who served him the alcohol.

Quote about the bar.

The widow and the family of this man will suffer this loss and much more. Assuming he worked, they will miss his income. Assuming he had children, they will grow up fatherless. And nobody will be held accountable even though the employees had seen that he was drunk and had gone so far as to ask for his keys, they did not stop serving him alcohol.

When this matter came to court, the trial judge dismissed the case outright. The widow appealed, but there was no hope to be had from the Appellate Court, either. That court, in keeping with the law, could find no way for this woman to recover under the section of law she cited in her suit.

On the other hand, however, the Georgia’s Dram Shop Act does allow a victim or the family of a victim hit by a drunk driver to recover from the provider of alcohol under certain conditions – where the provider of alcohol willfully and knowingly serves alcohol to a minor or to a noticeably intoxicated person, knowing that person is going to be soon driving a motor vehicle. See, O.C.G.A. 51-1-40(b).

Subtitle: Ask the experts.

The bottom line in personal injury suits – and there is no doubt that this woman was injured – is that Personal injury law gets more complicated all the time. It’s critical that you have an attorney who stays abreast of even the smallest adjustments in the statutes. The change of a single word can make the difference between winning and losing.

Call our offices today for your free case evaluation. We’ll study the facts in your situation and advise you of how you should proceed.