Generally, a person who causes an accident while in an intoxicated state can be held liable for the damages or injuries that resulted. However, under certain circumstances, an injured party might also be able to seek compensation from the person who supplied the alcohol to the intoxicated person. When a claim of this type is against an alcohol vendor, it's sometimes referred to as a "dram shop" claim. These alcohol-related third-party liability claims against non-vendors are normally called "social host liability" claims.
In this article, we'll look at the details of Maine's third-party liability laws for alcohol-related accidents.
Maine Revised Statutes Title 28-A, Chapter 100, known as the "Maine Liquor Liability Act," contains the state's dram shop laws. Under this Act, a vendor can be held liable for the actions of an intoxicated patron if the vendor negligently or recklessly services alcohol to:
Here is an example of Maine's dram shop law at work. Suppose that Don stops at Tex's Tavern for a few drinks. After several rounds, Don is slurring his speech and having trouble staying upright on his barstool, but the bartender continues to serve him alcohol. Eventually, Don leaves the bar and climbs into his car. When pulling out of the bar's driveway, Don hits a pedestrian, Penelope, and injures her.
Of course, Penelope can seek damages directly from Don for causing the accident. But she can also file a dram shop claim against Tex's Tavern for continuing to serve Don alcohol even after he was visibly intoxicated.
Maine's Liquor Liability Act applies to both "licensees" (or alcohol vendors) and "non-licensees" (or social hosts). So, social hosts have the same responsibility as vendors to avoid serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated or underage person and can be held liable if they negligently or recklessly serve a guest who's in one of these categories.
Here is an example of Maine's social host liability law at work. Suppose that in the above example, Don goes to a party hosted by his friend Harry instead of the tavern. While at the party, Harry serves Don several alcoholic drinks and urges Don to keep drinking even when it becomes clear that Don is intoxicated. Eventually, Don stumbles out onto the back deck and bumps into Penelope. Both Don and Penelope fall off the deck and are injured.
In this case, Penelope can seek damages from Harry under Maine's social host liability law because Harry continued to serve Don even after Don became visibly intoxicated.
Damages in a Maine dram shop or social host liability claim are intended to compensate the injured person for all harm caused by the accident. Damages might include:
It's important to note that dram shop or social host liability damages in Maine are "capped," or limited. There is no cap on damages for medical expenses. However, all other types of damages are capped at $350,000 per case. Remember that no cap applies to a personal injury claim that the injured person might file directly against the intoxicated person who directly caused the injuries.
Finally, Maine's statute of limitations requires that dram shop or social host liability claims be filed within six years of the date of injury. However, given that every case is different, you should always consult with an attorney as soon as possible after an accident to be sure your rights are protected.