Dram Shop Laws

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Kris Vandenberg
Business Law Paper
December 8th, 2011

Dram Shop Act in the United States: Is It Fair?

Liquor has been around since the beginning of recorded history, possibly before then. It has evolved from drinking “spirits” as they are referred to from Biblical times and used for medicinal purposes to establishments of today distributing and selling them. Liquor stores, bars, restaurants, gas stations, sports arenas, concert halls, and wineries are all places where one can purchase alcohol. Dram Shop laws are unfair and unjust. Establishments should not be held accountable for personal decisions patrons make because drunkenness can be hidden or could not take effect until after the patron left the establishment. Many degrees of drunkenness cannot be detected. If a patron is clearly intoxicated, establishments should be held accountable if they do not try to provide an alternate mode of transportation for the safety of the patron or the public. We struggle with the dilemma of morality when it comes to drinking liquor because in most religions it is looked down upon or considered a sin to imbibe alcohol for personal pleasure. Religion aside, liquor is a part of our culture. Since this is so, many states also passed dram shop acts, under which a tavern owner or bartender may be held liable for injuries caused by a person who became intoxicated when served by the bartender. Some states’ statutes also impose liability on social hosts, persons holding a party, for injuries caused by guests who became intoxicated at the hosts’ homes. Under these statutes, it is unnecessary to prove that the tavern owner, bartender or social host was negligent. (Cross, Frank B. and Roger LeRoy Miller. The Legal Environment of Business: Text and Cases. 7th ed. 2009, South-Western, Cengage Learning, Ohio. p. 312) The Dram Shop Act or Liquor Control Act came about in the 19th century during the temperance movement. In Illinois, for example, the first such law...