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

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

By | Updated By John McCurley, Attorney

When an intoxicated person injures someone else, many states allow the injured person to seek damages not only from the person who caused the injuries, but also from a vendor or social host who provided the alcohol to the intoxicated person. But these types of third-party claims are typically limited to certain specific circumstances. Claims against alcohol vendors are often referred to as "dram shop claims," whereas claims against non-vendors are normally called "social host liability claims."

In this article, we'll look at dram shop and social host liability laws in Arizona, including what types of damages might be available in these types of alcohol-related-accident cases.

Arizona's Dram Shop Laws

Under Arizona's dram shop laws, an alcohol vendor (someone who's licensed to sell alcohol) can be held liable for the injuries or damages caused by an intoxicated person if the vendor sold that person alcohol and the person was:

  • obviously intoxicated, or
  • under the legal drinking age and the vendor either knew the customer was younger than 21 years old or did not request an ID.

Here's an example of Arizona's dram shop law at work. Suppose that, while driving home from Big Red's Bar and Restaurant, Donald runs a stop sign and hits Patty, a pedestrian, injuring her. While sitting at the bar at Big Red's, Donald was slurring his speech and having trouble holding his glass. At one point, he almost fell off his barstool, but the bartender continued to serve him drinks anyway. Patty can sue Donald for damages and can also sue Big Red's under Arizona's dram shop law.

Vendor vs. Social Host Liability in Arizona

Arizona specifically prohibits civil liability for social hosts who provide alcohol to guests who are of the legal drinking age. However, the law doesn't prohibit lawsuits against a social host who provide alcohol to underage guests.

Damages in Arizona Dram Shop Cases

Dram shop and social host liability cases are civil lawsuits, which means that liability is expressed solely in terms of money damages. Damages in these types of cases might include things like:

  • medical expenses, including expenses for emergency care, hospitalization, surgery, and rehabilitation or therapy
  • lost wages and benefits, including what the injured person might reasonably have earned if total disability caused by the injury had not shortened his or her working life
  • replacement costs for damaged property, and
  • pain and suffering.

However, the actual amounts someone might recover depend heavily on the specific circumstances of the case.

Time Limits in Arizona Dram Shop Cases

Dram shop and social host liability cases are subject to a time limit known as the "statute of limitations." In Arizona, the statute of limitations generally requires that these types of claims be filed within two years of the injury or property damage. However, every case is different, so it's best to talk to an attorney as soon as possible after an injury to make sure your rights are protected.

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