Dram Shop Law in California


Dram Shop law in California was originally designed to hold hold businesses and individuals liable for providing alcohol to clearly intoxicated individuals. Currently however, Dram Shop law in California, is most often associated with strict liability being imposed on those adults who have provided alcohol to a minor that subsequently causes an accident resulting in injury or death.

Incidentally, if you are wondering about why this law is called ‘dram shop law’ it is because in England alcohol is sold by units called ‘drams!’

The actual ‘Dram Shop Law’ for California is part of  California Civil Code Section 1714.  Recent legislation changes in California has made this law nearly ineffective in regards to pursuing a personal injury claim against a business that sells alcohol. The law states (in part) that ‘furnishing alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person, namely that the furnishing of alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries resulting from intoxication, but rather the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person.’ (Italics ours.)  Basically, California court holds the drinker responsible and not the bar.  While restaurants and bars may have very limited civil exposure such as in a personal injury suit where liquor is sold to obviously intoxicated minors , California courts do allow prosecutors in criminal cases to shut down bars and restaurants who habitually over-serve alcohol to patrons.

Dram Shop law is very strict and enforceable in California for all cases involving an adult who provides alcohol to an obviously intoxicated minor if  that minor later  causes a collision resulting in injury or death. If an adult, serves an obviously intoxicated minor, dram shop law will hold the both the minor and the adult or company who provided the alcohol liable for the injuries or death of another individual that was caused by the intoxicated minor.

The same law that now limits exposure of bars and restaurants, California Civil Code Section 1714, proceeds to state: ‘Nothing…shall preclude a claim against a parent, guardian, or another adult who knowingly furnishes alcoholic beverages at his or her residence to a person under 21 years of age, in which case, notwithstanding subdivision (b), the furnishing of the alcoholic beverage may be found to be the proximate cause of resulting injuries or death.’

For minors who have suffered life-altering injuries or death as a result of an adult providing alcohol to them, pursuing a claim under the existing California Dram Shop law will help provide revenue to cover the large Emergency Room bills that follows such collisions as well as for loss of wages and cover future medical bills.  The guardian of an injured or deceased minor, should contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss pursuing such a claim.

The Edward A Smith Law Offices has a team of of knowledgeable, compassionate and experienced people ready to help you. Please call us at 916.921.6400 so that we can help you with any questions you may have.

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Photo Attribution: By LMDsama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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