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Florida’s Dram Shop Lawsuits


Drunk drivers cause considerable damage to others on Florida’s roadways each year. According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 2016 saw 5,223 alcohol confirmed crashes, which caused 461 fatalities and 3,160 injuries. These numbers were slightly down from 2015 but on par with 2014.

Although injured victims can sue the drunk driver, Florida law also allows them to sue someone else: the bar or other establishment that provided the person with alcohol. However, your right to use this Dram Shop law applies only in certain situations.

Florida’s Law

Statute 768.125 generally exempts anyone who sells or furnishes alcohol to a person who then causes injury. However, the law has two sizeable exceptions:

  • You are not exempt if you willfully and unlawfully furnished alcohol to someone underage.
  • You are not exempt if you knowingly served someone who was habitually addicted to alcohol.

Florida’s law differs from the laws in other states, which apply if someone serves a person who is “visibly drunk.” In Florida, by contrast, the person serving must know whether the person was a habitual drinker when they served them.

Furthermore, Florida’s law only applies to establishments like bars and taverns. Someone who is hosting a private party cannot be held liable under the state’s Dram Shop laws.


To understand how the law operates, consider the following examples:

Michael works at a bar when his neighbor, Joseph, comes in. Joseph is celebrating his 19th birthday, and Michael gives him a few beers. After drinking them, Jason gets into his car and goes for a ride, whereupon he slams into another motorist, causing serious injuries. In this situation, Michael can be sued under the state’s Dram Shop laws, because he gave beer to someone underage, who then caused an injury.

Cara is a bartender at Speak Easy just outside Daytona. One of the regulars is Tyler, who is a known alcoholic. Rather than tell Tyler to leave the bar, Cara serves him several drinks. After leaving, Tyler gets into a car and runs into another driver. Because Cara knowingly served alcohol to someone who is a habitual drunk, she can be held legally responsible for the injuries. The bar, as her employer, might also be responsible.

Joseph also works at Speak Easy and one day sells several drinks to Tiffany, who is 23. He has never met Tiffany before and therefore doesn’t know if she is a habitual drunk. After leaving Speak Easy, Tiffany mows down several pedestrians with her car. Because Tiffany is of legal age, and because Joseph doesn’t know if she has a habitual problem with alcohol, Joseph is not legally liable under Florida’s dram shop laws.

Speak with a Daytona Beach Car Accident Lawyer

Whether you can use Florida’s Dram Shop laws to hold an establishment or individual legally responsible is a complicated question. Nevertheless, drunk drivers are a threat on Florida’s roads, and injured victims must pursue compensation from all potential parties. At Bundza & Rodriguez, we will carefully analyze your situation to identify who you can hold legally responsible for your injuries. Contact us today. Initial consultations are free.


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