A number of states have enacted laws that allow a person who's injured by an intoxicated individual to hold liable the vendor that sold or served the alcohol. These laws are known as "dram shop" laws. Additionally, some states allow someone who's injured to seek compensation from a social host who served alcohol at a private event to a guest who then causes an accident.
In this article, we'll look at Kentucky's rules for holding a third party liable for an alcohol-related accident.
Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.241—the state's dram shop law—states that alcohol vendors cannot be held liable when a patron injures another person except where "reasonable person under the same or similar circumstances should know that the person served is already intoxicated at the time of serving." However, the law qualifies this liability limitation to patrons who are of the legal drinking age. So, serving an underage patron could lead to the vendor being held liable for the drunken actions of that patron.
Here's an example for dram shop liability. Suppose that Dana stops by Telly's Tavern on her way home from work. After several drinks, Dana is slurring her speech and having difficulty staying seated or reaching for her glass. Nevertheless, the bartender continues to serve Dana alcohol. As Dana gets up to leave, she stumbles into Pamela, who is sitting on the barstool beside her. Pamela is knocked to the floor and is injured.
In this situation, Pamela can seek damages directly from Dana for causing the accident. Pamela can also seek damages from Telly's Tavern under Kentucky dram shop law, as the tavern continued to serve Dana even after a reasonable person should have recognized Dana was intoxicated.
Kentucky has no state law allowing an injured person to seek damages from a social host for the actions of an intoxicated guest. The state's dram shop liability law applies only to vendors licensed to sell or serve alcohol under state law.
For example, suppose that instead of going to Telly's Tavern in the above example, Dana stopped by the home of a friend, Helene, who was throwing a barbecue. After having several drinks at Helene's barbecue, Dana tripped and fell off the back deck, knocking Pamela off the deck in the process and injuring her.
Pamela could sue Dana for causing her injuries but would have a claim against Helene, who was just a social host in this scenario.
A dram shop case against an alcohol vendor proceeds like most civil cases involving injuries, meaning a finding of liability will be accompanied by an award of damages to the injured person. Damages in a Kentucky dram shop case are intended to compensate the injured person for losses related to the accident, including medical bills, lost wages, damaged property, and non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
Like other types of Kentucky personal injury lawsuits, a dram shop claim in Kentucky must be filed in court within one year of the date of the injury. However, because each situation is unique, you should always consult with an attorney as soon as possible after suffering an injury to ensure your rights are protected.