What You Need to Know about Superbowl 50 and Alcohol Liability in Pennsylvania
With the Super Bowl just weeks away, America prepares for one of the biggest events of the year, holding celebrations across the country where spectators gather to watch and share in a long-standing cultural tradition. Alcohol is often a part of these celebrations and with that, comes concerns for businesses, hosts, and guests alike, creating responsibilities for those serving and those partaking during Super Bowl festivities.
Although one may think that only drivers bear responsibility for drinking and driving, and the resulting car accidents that this behavior may cause, Pennsylvania also holds those serving alcohol responsible under certain circumstances with the State’s Dram Shop Laws. Dram Shop Laws exist in 38 states, with variable criteria for liability. The central purpose of a Dram Shop Law is to hold businesses that sell alcoholic drinks or hosts who serve liquor to a person who is obviously intoxicated or near intoxication, strictly liable to anyone injured by the intoxicated patron or guest. For example, if you serve alcohol to a person who is already intoxicated, he or she drives a car, causes an accident, and injures someone, you may be forced to provide compensation to the injured victim.
Notably, Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop Act confines liability solely to retailers licensed by the Liquor Control Board, meaning that social hosts are not responsible for injuries caused by their intoxicated guests. This concept is often referred to as “Social Host Liability,” as it imposes responsibility on a person hosting a party who serves alcohol to adults or minors. In Pennsylvania, social host liability applies only to social hosts who provide alcohol to individuals under the age of 21. Restaurants and bars, on the other hand, may be held responsible if an over-served patron causes a car accident or even engages in a fight that leaves someone seriously injured.
So what then do we need to know as we celebrate Super Bowl 50 on February 7th, 2015? First, avoid drinking and driving at all costs. Find a designated driver, call a car service, or make other arrangements; just be sure to have a driving plan in place before your evening begins. Second, if you are a business owner who provides alcohol, educate your staff about signs of intoxication and vigorously caution against over-serving guests who seem visibly intoxicated. Third, if you are hosting a gathering, ensure that no one under the age of 21 has access to alcohol in your home. You may not need to hand them the alcohol yourself to be held responsible. In fact, Pennsylvania broadly interprets the standard of “knowingly furnishing” alcohol to minors, so even lack of supervision can leave you exposed to liability.
Lastly, if you are a victim who is injured in a drunk driving accident, bars, restaurants, party hosts, and of course, the driver, may be held responsible for your injuries through a personal injury lawsuit. If you have lost a loved one to a drunk driving accident, you may have legal recourse with a wrongful death claim. It is important to know your rights and, if possible, to hold those at-fault accountable for your suffering. At Cohen and Riechelson, our highly experienced personal injury attorneys have been fighting for injured victims and their families in Pennsylvania for over 40 years. Contact our offices in Bucks County at (215) 337-4915 for a free case evaluation.