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Personal Injury Blog

iStock 000001565361 ExtraSmallHow far is too far when it comes to getting intoxicated in a public establishment? When a patron consumes enough alcohol to become dangerously inebriated, drastic events may occur which could lead to dangerous, if not fatal, consequences. But when the events occur, who is at fault for the consequences: is it the patron, who should know their limits in regards to alcohol; or the establishment, who should place morality before money and cut off an obviously drunk customer?

This very question has results in the development of many new policies, including the creation of the dram shop laws. The dram shop laws vary from state to state, but they address this specific issue. In regards to the answer of that question, it can be exemplified through situational occurrences, though the endgame is always the same answer: an individual is responsible for their actions, inside and outside the establishment. The establishment is responsible for its services and employees while they are on the clock. In some states, the establishment is responsible and may be held liable for accidents involving the patron causing a drunken vehicular accident. But how do these specifics play out in regards to the law?

The Responsibilities of the Establishment

The responsibilities of the establishment center on safe customer service according to the policies constructed by both the company itself and the law. Safe customer service is situational depending on what decision is best for the group of customer as a whole. If one customer is a danger to others or themselves, the establishment has the rights to take the necessary and appropriate means to ensure a safe experience for everyone in the building, whether it involves calling the police or approaching the patron that is causing an inappropriate scene.

The responsibility of the establishment, according to some states, ends when the customer exits the property of said establishment. In other states, the law states that if the customer is obviously inebriated, then it is the establishment’s responsibility to cease the serving of alcohol to that specific customer to do their part in keeping the patron safe. In most cases, other events may cause a liability that establishments must keep an eye on, such as selling alcohol to a minor or a patron that provides alcohol to minors to the knowledge of the establishment, especially if the minor becomes injured or injures others.

This thus means that the establishment would be at fault for selling the alcohol to the minor or to the provider. The establishment, according to some states, would not be responsible for the actions of an individual that is of age. If the establishment does not follow its policies or creates an environment that in any way harms or endangers its patrons, then the fault lies with the establishment.

The Responsibilities of the Patron

A patron has two responsibilities when they visit an establishment: the payment of the establishment’s provided services, and their own conduct. As a customer, it is their job to be an orderly guest. Orderly conduct may seem to be common sense, but common sense can disappear in a patron that is inebriated. If a customer begins to destroy the establishment’s property, or becomes a safety hazard to themselves or those around them, the establishment reserves the right to remove the disruptive patron. Once the customer exist the establishment’s property, in most cases, the establishment is not responsible for their actions.

It is crucial for the customer to know their limit and keep themselves as safe as possible, especially in an event where alcohol is concerned, which can make them more vulnerable. As an aspect of orderly conduct, it is a customer’s responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner that does not threaten a liability to themselves or those around them. Their own individual actions are their own responsibilities. If they cause a hazard to themselves, then the establishment is not to blame; if the patron causes harm to others, the fault thus lies in the harmful patron.

A similar correlation applies to any damaged property of the establishment as a result of the disorderly patron’s behavior. Thus, if an accident were to occur outside of the establishment due to the customer’s drunk driving, the fault may be found in the establishment varying from state to state.

Florida’s Dram Shop Law

Florida’s dram shop liability is highly limited when compared to those in other states. In other states, an establishment can be found liable if a drunk driving accident were to occur involving an intoxicated patron. The application of this law is limited as well. In Florida, establishments that sell alcohol are generally not held liable for any injuries that may occur or those caused by the drunk patron. It is tough to prove the role of the establishment as a third party when inebriated injuries are involved. 

Florida businesses are liable, however, if they sell alcohol to minors or to those who are known to be addicted to alcohol. The employee must always be aware of the age of the patron that they are selling the alcohol to, and if the patron creates a risk that is foreseeable in the future, then they do not have the capacity to make the responsible decision. If the establishment is lackadaisical in the selling of their alcohol in that regard, then they are at fault for not taking that extra step in forbidding to provide them with alcohol.

Tips for Responsible Drinking

When you are out as a customer yourself, keep in mind that there are plenty of ways to ensure you have a safe and fun experience at an establishment that serves alcohol. These ways include:

  • Know your limit. Everyone has a different level of tolerance, which is neither something bad nor good. Knowing yourself is the first step in having a good time with alcohol. Keep in mind that men and women have different tolerance levels; women have lower tolerance levels.

  • Do not drink and drive. Whether you call a bus, a taxi, or plan ahead with a designated driver before the event, know how you will get home. The last thing you want to do is get behind a wheel while drunk and endanger yourself and those you share a road with.

  • Know how your body personally reacts to different types of alcohol. Some kinds of alcohol will make certain people react differently than others. Some alcohol can make people mean, happy, or silly. It is best to stay away from the types of alcohol that may make you violent.

  • Mixing alcohols will make you sicker as well as drunker. If you are out at an establishment for a good time, stick to leisurely drinks. Drinking beer before other alcoholic drinks may make you get inebriated more quickly, but it can lead to possibly disastrous results.

  • Set a price limit for yourself before entering an establishment. By setting a price limit before you purchase alcohol, you already set yourself a limit of how many drinks you will allow yourself to have. This thus means you have a plan going in to the event which can turn into a safe night for everyone.

When the establishment does all it can to ensure a safe experience for the customer, and the customer does all he or she can to do the same, the night can carry on like any other normal, safe night. The two must work together to make sure that safety is the first priority. Liability is in the beholding of the specific state, but in Florida, the liability only applies to the sale of alcohol to a minor and to those who are known to be addicted to alcohol. But while the dram shop laws of Florida tend to be more limited than in other states, it is up to both the customer and the establishment to keep the environment safe within their powers.

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