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

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

A majority of U.S. states have statutes that allow an injured person to hold an alcohol vendor, social host, or both liable for providing alcohol to someone who then causes injuries to someone else. However, these laws—called "dram shop" and "social host liability" laws—typically apply only in certain circumstances.

Here's how dram shop and social host liability laws related to alcohol-related accidents work in Hawaii.

Dram Shop Liability for Alcohol-Related Accidents in Hawaii

Unlike many other states, Hawaii doesn't have a dram shop or social host liability statute. The law in this area was established by Hawaiian courts.

Generally, an injured party in Hawaii can bring a lawsuit against an alcohol vendor (such as a bar or restaurant that sells alcohol) for the injuries or damages caused by an intoxicated patron if the vendor unlawfully sold alcohol to:

  • a person who's not of the legal drinking age,
  • a person who's already under the influence.

Here's an example. Suppose that Dean goes to Ted's Tavern for a few drinks. Although Dean becomes increasingly intoxicated over the course of the evening, the bartender continues to serve Dean alcohol. Finally, Dean leaves the tavern, gets in his car, and begins to drive home. On the way, he rear-ends a vehicle driven by Penelope, causing her injuries.

Penelope can bring a personal injury claim directly against Dean for her injuries. She can also file a dram shop claim against Ted's Tavern based on the bartender serving alcohol to Dean after the bartender knew Dean was under the influence.

Social Host Liability is Limited in Hawaii

Social host liability in Hawaii is limited to situations where a social host serves alcohol to a guest who's under the legal drinking age.

For example, suppose that Henry hosts a wine-tasting party at his home. Among his guests are Patty, a friend from work, and Megan, the 15-year-old daughter of a friend. Megan joins in the wine-tasting, and Henry serves her even though he knows she is under 21. Later that evening, Megan stumbles and knocks Patty off the edge of the deck.

Because Megan is under age 21, Patty can bring a claim against Henry based on social host liability.

Damages and Time Limits in Hawaii Dram Shop Claims

A dram shop claim is a civil lawsuit, which means that liability is expressed solely in terms of money damages. Damages in a Hawaii dram shop claim are awarded to compensate an injured person for losses that might include medical bills, lost wages, the value of household services or childcare the injured person would have performed but for the injuries, property damage, and pain and suffering.

Hawaii's statute of limitations sets a time limit on filing all types of personal injury claims. These claims must be filed in court within two years of the date of injury. However, given that each 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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