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Can You Sue a Bar Owner in Maryland for Overserving Alcohol?

Suppose you get into an accident with a driver who was driving under the influence of alcohol and had just left a bar after drinking there all night. What if the intoxicated driver had just left a party where alcohol was being served? Can you sue either the bar or the party host who overserved the clearly intoxicated person?

Dram Shop Laws

Suing a bar for overserving a person falls under what is known as a “Dram Shop Law,” which Maryland does not explicitly have. Washington D.C. has a law that bans the sale of alcoholic beverages to someone who is visibly intoxicated and to anyone under the age of 21; however, it is not a specific dram shop law. Despite this, the high court there has determined that if a business serves someone clearly in violation of the law, then the business can be held liable for negligence if the person then leaves and harms someone else because he or she was drunk.

Maryland does have a law that bans the sale of liquor to people under 21 (as does every state) and to intoxicated people. The difference is that the courts in Maryland are split on what happens if a drunk person injures another. If the person is under 21, a business can be held responsible for serving him or her alcoholic beverages. On the flip side, a business cannot be sued for the mere act of serving an already drunk person.

There may be certain instances in which you might have a claim against the bar owner; however, it will not be for the act of overserving. For example, you and the other person happen to be at the same bar. As you are attempting to walk downstairs, the visibly intoxicated person runs into you, the stairs break, and you fall down. In addition to a claim against the person who injured you, you might have a premises liability claim against the bar owner. The intoxicated person will likely also have a premises liability claim against the bar owner. If those stairs were unreasonably dangerous, or defective in some way, you will have a cause of action for damages claim against the bar owner.

Punitive Damages

A number of states have a law that allows victims to recover punitive damages in a lawsuit that resulted from a drunk driving accident. Punitive damage awards tend to be high to help “punish” the wrongdoer for his or her actions. In Maryland, punitive damages exist, but the courts have determined that the act of drunk driving is not enough to satisfy the requirement of proving malice. Legislation has been introduced to try and change the law. Some people oppose punitive damages, suggesting that they are money that the victim did not “earn” or is not entitled, whereas others feel punitive damages would help deter the high incidence of drunk driving accidents in Maryland.

Retaining a Maryland Car Accident Attorney

If you have been in an accident with a drunk driver, you need a skilled Maryland auto accident attorney. Contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro today schedule a consultation with one of our experienced Charles County personal injury attorneys.

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