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

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

In Idaho, a person who is injured by the actions of an intoxicated individual may be able to bring a claim against any vendor or social host who provided the alcohol. These claims are known as "dram shop" or "social host" claims. (Historical note: The name "dram shop" arises from the fact that alcohol was historically sold by a unit of measure known as a dram.)

In this article, we'll look at the details of Idaho's dram shop and social host liability, including situations that may give rise to a dram shop or social host claim after an  alcohol-related accident.

What Is Idaho's Dram Shop Law?

Idaho code section 23-808  states that a claim may be brought against a person or business that sells or furnishes alcohol to a person who then causes injury to another, if:

  • the person who caused injury was under age 21 and the party who furnished the alcohol knew or should have known the person was under age 21, or
  • the person who caused injury was "obviously intoxicated" and the party who furnished the alcohol knew or should have known the person was obviously intoxicated.

If the person who caused the injury was not under age 21 or obviously intoxicated at the time the alcohol was supplied, a claim may not be filed against the party that supplied the alcohol. If the person was under age 21, however, a dram shop claim may be brought even if he or she was not "obviously intoxicated."

Here is an example of Idaho's dram shop law in action. Suppose that on her way home from work, Dana stops at Tara's Tavern for a few drinks. Although she gradually becomes disoriented, slurs her speech, and has trouble staying on her bar stool, the bartender continues to serve Dana alcohol. Finally, Dana stumbles out of the bar and tries to drive home. Halfway to her house, she hits Pamela, a pedestrian, in a crosswalk, injuring her.

Pamela may bring a personal injury claim against Dana for causing the accident. She may also bring a  dram shop claim  against Tara's Tavern based on the bar's continuing to serve alcohol to Dana after she was obviously intoxicated.

It's important to note that a "first party claim" is not an option under Idaho's law. In other words, if Dana was injured in the accident, she may not bring a dram shop claim against Tara's Tavern under the Idaho law.

Finally, keep in mind that if Dana had been under the legal drinking age, Pamela may also have a dram shop claim, even if Dana was not obviously intoxicated.

Social Host Liability in Idaho

Idaho also allows civil injury claims to be brought against social hosts who provide alcohol to guests who are under age 21 or who are obviously intoxicated. Basically, the same rules apply to social hosts who serve alcohol and bars and stores that sell alcohol. Here is an example of Idaho's  social host liability  in action:

Suppose that, at a backyard barbecue hosted by her neighbor Helen, Minnie, a 19-year-old, accepts several drinks from her hostess. While dancing on the back deck with a drink in her hand, Minnie stumbles into Peter, knocking him off the edge of the deck and causing injuries.

Peter can bring a social host claim against Helen for providing alcohol to Minnie, who is under the legal drinking age -- even if Minnie was not "obviously intoxicated" at the time of the accident. Minnie, however, cannot bring a social host claim against Helen even if she was also injured in the accident.

If Minnie had been 21 or older, Peter would have a social host claim only if Helen had continued to serve Minnie alcohol despite Minnie being obviously intoxicated.

Damages and Time Limits for Idaho Injury Claims

For the kinds of injury cases we've discussed here, personal injury damages may be available to compensate for a range of losses, including medical and hospital bills, lost wages due to time away from work, the lost value of household services or childcare the injured person would otherwise have performed, costs for property damage, and pain and suffering.

Idaho has a "notice period" for filing third party injury claims over an alcohol-related accident. In Idaho, the injured plaintiff must give written notice to the vendor or social host of a potential claim within  180 days  of the injury date. If proper notice is not given, the case cannot proceed, although the injured person may still seek damages from the person who caused the injuries. Once notice is given, the dram shop claim itself must be filed within  two years  of the date of injury, according to Idaho's statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits.

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