Florida — like many other states — has implemented a system of dram shop liability for third parties (i.e., alcohol vendors) who sell or otherwise furnish alcohol commercially. Dram shop laws generally impose liability on alcohol vendors for the injuries caused by the intoxicated person to whom they furnished alcohol. Florida’s dram shop laws are more specific, however, in that liability is not imposed in all circumstances. In order to hold a Florida alcohol vendor liable for the damages caused by an intoxicated person that the vendor actually furnished with alcohol, the intoxicated person must fit within a legally prescribed category.
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, for example, or in some other accident caused by an intoxicated defendant, you may be entitled to recover damages against the “dram shop” — in other words, the alcohol vendor — pursuant to applicable Florida dram shop laws. Dram shop cases can be complex, however, and can be difficult for a layperson to understand. Nonetheless, to ensure that your claims are assessed in a timely manner and effectively litigated, you are encouraged to consult with an experienced Fort Myers personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your injury.
In the state of Florida, dram shop liability is governed (in major part) by section 768.125 of the Florida Statutes. The statute is rather clear about how liability is imposed in situations involving an alcohol vendor and an intoxicated person who causes injuries to others. Let’s take a quick look.
In Florida, you may recover damages against the alcohol vendor (i.e., a restaurant, bar, club, lounge, liquor shop, etc.) if you can show that the vendor willfully and unlawfully furnished alcohol to:
- A minor who is not of legal drinking age, or
- Any person who is “habitually addicted” to the use of alcoholic beverages.
Importantly, strict liability is imposed on alcohol vendors who furnish alcohol to minors. If, for example, you are injured in an auto accident by a drunk driving minor who was served alcoholic beverages at a local bar, you would likely be able to hold the bar liable as a third party for your damages. It does not matter if the alcohol vendor went through the proper procedures and checked the identification of the minor before serving them alcohol. This puts an enormous burden on alcohol vendors -- much to the benefit of Florida personal injury plaintiffs.
The Willfully Furnished Standard
Florida alcohol vendors can be held liable for the injuries caused by any person (non-minors included) who is known to be “habitually addicted” to alcohol and that, despite knowing that fact, they willfully furnished said alcohol. To hold the alcohol vendor liable in a scenario involving a “habitually addicted” person, however, you must show that the vendor knew or should have known that the person they furnished with alcohol was, in fact, habitually addicted. For example, if the person they served was wearing sunglasses and a hat and was therefore difficult to identify at the bar, then it would be difficult to show that the vendor willfully furnished a habitually addicted person.
Contact Randall Spivey as soon as possible to connect with a knowledgeable Fort Myers personal injury attorney at the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A. We will provide a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights under the law.