How do Kentucky’s dram shop laws work?

Kentucky businesses that serve liquor, such as bars or sit-down restaurants, could generate significant profits from beer and mixed drinks sales. Since alcohol causes intoxication, the law places responsibilities on the business owner’s shoulders. Not many people may be familiar with the word “dram,” an old-time term that refers to a serving of alcohol less than a normal shot. Learning about “dram shop” laws may benefit owners interested in staying out of legal trouble.

Liabilities and liquor sales

Dram shop laws refer to statutes where civil liability falls on businesses that sell alcohol to someone who causes harm to others. For example, if someone walks out of a bar and gets into a drunk driving crash, the bar that served the alcohol could face civil liabilities. Essentially, the laws focus on the establishment’s contribution to the negligent party’s behavior.

Kentucky law establishes that businesses serving alcohol and their employees or agents, including servers, may be held liable if they provide alcohol to someone that a “reasonable person” would conclude as drunk. The statute notes liabilities may include property damage or wrongful death.

Establishing liability

In personal injury lawsuits, negligence plays the key role in a case’s merits. When someone is clearly intoxicated, serving that person more alcohol could lead to harm. When owners and employees face a potential lawsuit, someone might tell a customer “no more” when that person shows blatant signs of alcohol impairment.

Determining whether a reasonable person may infer someone is drunk might be ambiguous in some situations. That said, if someone is so intoxicated he or she cannot stand up, it would appear risky to continue to serve that person drinks. Security camera footage or eyewitness testimony may support claims of the establishment’s negligence.


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