When an intoxicated individual causes injuries to others, the victims will typically be able to recover compensation from the impaired person for their medical bills and other losses. However, there may also be other parties that could be held liable, including the establishments or individuals who sold or provided alcohol to the intoxicated individual. In Colorado, these lawsuits can occur through the dram shop laws.
The phrase “dram shop” has been around for hundreds of years and traditionally referred to businesses that sold or provided alcohol. Even though we do not call these places dram shops anymore, the name of the law remains.
If we examine Colorado Revised Statutes section 12-47-801, we can see that any alcohol vendors could be held responsible for injuries caused by an intoxicated individual under a few circumstances. This includes if they sold alcohol to someone who is already visibly intoxicated or if they sold alcohol to a person under 21 years of age, regardless of the level of that person’s apparent intoxication.
For an example of how a dram shop lawsuit may work, let us suppose that Jackson is out drinking at a bar but is slurring his words and having trouble walking. Nevertheless, Andrea, the bartender, continues to serve Jackson drinks. Eventually, Jackson decides he is going to leave the bar. He gets into his vehicle and drives away. However, suppose Jackson strikes a pedestrian with his vehicle right after he leaves the parking lot.
If the victim sustains injuries, they may have a valid claim against not only Jackson but also the establishment and bartender who continued to provide Jackson with alcohol.
The liability rules under Colorado law become a little bit different when a social host serves alcohol at a private setting, such as a residence or a party. Colorado holds that social hosts cannot be held responsible for injuries that an intoxicated adult causes, even if they were continuously served alcohol at the private party or residence. However, social hosts can be held liable if they knowingly served alcohol to a person under the age of 21 or knowingly provided an area where a minor could drink alcohol.
Proving negligence under the dram shop and social host liability laws can be challenging. It will be crucial to show a few things, depending on the age of the intoxicated individual. First, if the person who caused the injuries was an intoxicated minor, it will need to be proven that the alcohol vendor or social host knowingly provided alcohol to someone under the age of 21.
If the intoxicated individual is 21 years of age or older, moving forward with a dram shop liability claim involves proving that the establishment or server continued to provide alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated. Establishing whether or not the person was visibly intoxicated is the challenging part. This may involve speaking to eyewitnesses and examining surveillance footage.
Traditionally, dram shop lawsuits are challenging to prove, and we strongly encourage working with a skilled attorney if you or somebody you love has been injured or sustained property damage due to the negligence of an intoxicated individual.
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