Barmen should know the law when it
comes to drunk people
After reading reports this week on IrishCentral, about a lot of Irish J1 Visa students being arrested over the summer for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct, I decided to address the issue of alcohol consumption and the sale of alcohol in New York.

First and foremost, New York State takes a tough stance on the sale of alcohol to minors. An establishment selling alcohol to a minor can be held both criminally and civilly liable for such an offense. This is common sense and everyone should know that it’s illegal to serve alcohol to a minor. Any bar owner in New York can tell you that.

But what about selling alcohol to a consenting adult?

Bar owners may be surprised to learn that they can be held liable in New York for injuries caused to a person (and not necessarily somebody on the premises), if those responsible for causing the injuries were drinking alcohol at their bar beforehand.

For establishments in New York that sell alcohol (i.e. bars, restaurants, pubs) the governing law for this type of liability is referred to as the “Dram Shop Act”. This law holds sellers of alcohol liable to a person for injuries sustained as a result of the intoxication of the purchaser of the alcohol who then causes the injuries in question.

It is important to note that the person who actually causes the injuries in this type of scenario does not simply escape liability. That wrongdoer can of course be sued and held liable for his or her actions. However, the Dram Shop Act in New York provides another possible source of liability and potential money damages for an injured person.

It is key to remember that the Dram Shop Act only applies to establishments that actually sell alcohol for commercial purposes. It is also imperative that a determination is made indicating that the sale of alcohol was made directly to the individual who allegedly caused the injuries in question.

Most civil litigation in New York involving the Dram Shop Act arises out of the provision that prohibits the sale of alcohol to a person who is “visibly intoxicated”. The New York Courts have held that circumstantial evidence can establish that a person was “visibly intoxicated” at the time of the sale of the alcohol – “droopy eyes”, “incoherent or irrational speech”, “tearful or irritable demeanor” – have all been held to be relevant to determining “visibly intoxicated”.

The Dram Shop Act may seem somewhat unfair but it is the law in New York State. The legislature has justified the law as an attempt to curb the injuries, accidents and fatalities that are associated with alcohol consumption. Of course, everyone has to take personal responsibility for their own actions. However, sellers of alcohol in New York need to be aware that they have responsibilities as well.

For more information or to contact me directly, please visit my website at WWW.ROBDUNNELAW.COM