Alaska Dram Shop Laws and Social Host Liability for Alcohol-Related Accidents

When an intoxicated person injures someone else in Alaska, can a third party be liable for providing the alcohol?

By | Updated By John McCurley, Attorney

If you're injured or your property is damaged by an intoxicated person in Alaska, you can sue that person for compensation. However, in certain circumstances, you might also be able to seek compensation from the person or business that supplied the alcohol. When this type of lawsuit is against an alcohol vendor (for example, a restaurant or bar), it's typically called a "dram shop" claim. Claims against non-vendors for providing alcohol to a guest who then causes an accident are normally referred to as "social host liability" claims.

In this article, we'll look at Alaska's dram shop and social host liability rules for alcohol-related accidents.

Alaska's Dram Shop Law

Alaska's dram shop law is contained in Alaska Statutes section 04.21.020. Under this law, an alcohol vendor (a person or business licensed to sell alcohol) can be held liable for the actions of an intoxicated patron if the vendor provided the alcohol and the patron was:

  • under the legal drinking age of 21, or
  • already in a drunken state.

For example, suppose that Dana is walking home one night when she stumbles off a curb and runs into Pat, another pedestrian. Pat is knocked to the ground and is injured. Dana happened to be walking home from Tom's Tavern, where the bartender had continued serving alcohol to Dana even though the bartender could see that Dana was clearly intoxicated.

Pat can file a personal injury lawsuit against Dana, seeking damages for his injuries. But he can also file a dram shop lawsuit against Tom's Tavern for continuing to serve Dana after she was already in a drunken state.

Social Host Liability in Alaska

The liability rules that apply to social hosts are more limited than those that apply to alcohol vendors. Generally, a social host can be held liable for the actions of an intoxicated guest only if the social host provided alcohol to the guest knowing that the guest wasn't of the legal drinking age.

Here's how social host liability works. Suppose that in the above example, Dana is walking home not from Tom's Tavern, but from a party thrown by her coworker, Harriet. Harriet served alcohol at her party and continued to refill Dana's wine glass even after Dana was clearly intoxicated.

In this circumstance, Pat could sue Dana for causing his injuries. But Pat probably can't bring a successful lawsuit again Harriet for providing the alcohol to Dana because Harriet isn't an alcohol vendor. However, if Dana was 19 years old and Harriet knew this but provided her with alcohol anyway, Pat would also have a valid claim against Harriet.

Damages and Time Limits in Alaska Dram Shop and Social Host Liability Cases

Alaska law allows those who file dram shop and social host liability claims to seek money damages for their injuries. These damages are meant to compensate the injured person for the quantifiable losses caused by the intoxicated person's actions. In the above example, in which Pat was injured when Dana knocked him to the ground, Pat might be able to recover damages for losses like medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Like other injury cases, Alaska dram shop and social host liability cases are subject to a deadline known as the "statute of limitations." Under the statute of limitations, an injury case generally must be filed within two years of the date of injury. However, given that every situation is different, you should always consult an attorney as soon as possible after suffering an injury to ensure your rights are protected.

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