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

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

Unlike many states, Louisiana has not enacted broad legislation that can be used to hold an alcohol vendor or social host liable for providing alcohol to an intoxicated person who goes on to cause an accident. In other states, an injured person can turn to "dram shop" and "social host liability" laws in that situation. Not so in Louisiana, except in two specific circumstances. We'll cover those in this article, along with some examples that can help illustrate how the state's rules work when it comes to third party liability for an alcohol-related accident.

Third Party Liability for Alcohol-Related Accidents in Louisiana

The limits of third party liability for alcohol-related accidents in Louisiana are set by Louisiana Revised Statutes section 9:2800.1, which states that a person who has injured by an intoxicated individual cannot seek damages from the alcohol vendor or social host who provided the alcohol. Under the statute, it does not matter if the intoxicated person was clearly intoxicated when the alcohol was provided. Likewise, it does not matter whether the intoxicated person was under the legal drinking age of 21 years.

That doesn't mean that a person injured by an intoxicated individual has no options for a personal injury claim. The specifics depend on the circumstances of the accident, of course, but here is an example:

After a long day at work, Debbie stops at Barry's Bar for a drink. After several rounds, she attempts to stand up from her bar stool, but stumbles and falls. She crashes into Penny, who is sitting on the bar stool beside Debbie. Penny is knocked to the floor and is injured.

Penny may bring a personal injury claim against Debbie for causing the accident that injured her. This would require Penny proving that Debbie was negligent, meaning she didn't exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. Remember that under Louisiana law, Penny may not bring a "dram shop" claim against Barry's Bar for serving the alcohol that intoxicated Debbie. However, if either Debbie or Penny fell because the bar stools were in an unreasonably unsafe condition, either one of them may have a valid premises liability claim against Barry's Bar.

The same rule would hold if Barry were a social host throwing a party, rather than a licensed alcohol vendor. If the same accident had occurred in a private home, Penny would not be able to seek damages from the social host for providing the alcohol to Debbie, but she might have a premises liability claim if she was injured because the property was in an unreasonably unsafe condition.

Exceptions Where Third Party Liability May Apply in LA

Louisiana's statutes set out two exceptions to the prohibition against dram shop and social host liability claims. An alcohol vendor or social host may be held liable in Louisiana if:

  • the vendor or social host caused the intoxication by force, or
  • the vendor or social host caused the intoxication by misrepresenting an alcoholic beverage as non-alcoholic.

As you might imagine, situations like these are pretty rare. But, expanding on the example above, suppose that Debbie goes to a party hosted by Hamlet, a friend from work. At the party, Hamlet offers her a drink. When Debbie asks what's in it, Hamlet tells her it's non-alcoholic, when in fact it contains several shots of liquor. Debbie drinks it and becomes intoxicated. While trying to drive home, she hits Penny in a crosswalk, injuring her.

Here, Penny may be able to hold Hamlet liable for providing the alcohol that caused Debbie's intoxication. Although Debbie may still be responsible for causing the accident, Hamlet is also responsible for his misrepresentation to Debbie that her drink was alcohol-free. Similarly, if Debbie is sued by Penny, Debbie may be able to bring Hamlet into the lawsuit and require him to pay part or all of any damages the court awards to Penny (known as a "third-party claim for indemnity").

Damages and Time Limits in Louisiana Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury damages are intended to compensate an injured person for all losses that resulting from an accident, including:

  • medical bills
  • lost wages and other lost income
  • future costs for ongoing medical care or lost capacity to work due to disability
  • value of damaged or destroyed property, and
  • pain and suffering.

Injury-related lawsuits in Louisiana must be filed within one year of the date of injury, under the state's statute of limitations. If the claim is not filed in court within that time, the court will almost certainly refuse to hear it.

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