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

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

Every U.S. state has rules allowing an injured person to seek compensation from the person or business that was legally at fault for the underlying accident. And, when the person who caused the injuries was intoxicated at the time, many states also allow the injured person to seek compensation from the alcohol vendor or social host who provided the alcohol, at least in some circumstances. These types of claims against alcohol vendors are normally called "dram shop" claims. A third-party liability claim against a non-vendor is sometimes called a "social host liability" claim.

Here's what Maryland law says about third-party claims related to an alcohol-related accident.

Dram Shop Liability in Maryland

Maryland has no dram shop statute, and Maryland courts have consistently refused to allow dram shop claims to be brought in the state.

However, a person injured by an intoxicated individual may have other valid claims. As an example, suppose that Dylan stops at Barbie's Bar for a drink after work. After several rounds, Dylan becomes noticeably intoxicated, but the bartender continues to serve him drinks. Eventually, Dylan leaves the bar area to go to the restroom, which is located in the basement. On his way down the basement steps, Dylan stumbles and bumps into Padma. Both Dylan and Padma fall to the bottom of the steps and are injured.

Padma can file a personal injury claim directly against Dylan for causing the accident through his negligence. However, in Maryland, Padma can't seek damages from Barbie's Bar for serving the alcohol that intoxicated Dylan.

Maryland Social Host Liability Laws

Maryland law provides limited social host liability. A social host can be held liable for the damages caused by an underage guest to whom the social host knowingly provided alcohol.

Here's an illustration. Suppose that Dagny goes to a party hosted by Hans, her neighbor. Although Hans knows that Dagny is only 19 years old, he serves her several glasses of wine. While dancing on Hans's deck, Dagny trips and runs into Parker. Both Dagny and Parker fall off the deck and are injured.

Here, Parker may have a personal injury claim against Dagny for causing the accident. Both Parker and Dagny might also have valid claims against Hans for allowing Dagny to drink, though he knew her to be underage.

Damages and Time Limits for Injury Claims in Maryland

Injury claims are civil lawsuits in Maryland, meaning that liability in these cases is expressed solely in terms of money damages. Typical damages in these kinds of claims might include:

  • hospital bills and other medical expenses
  • lost wages and benefits, including the lost value of future wages if the injuries prevent a person from continuing to work
  • lost value of household services and childcare the person contributed
  • property damage, and
  • pain and suffering resulting from the accident, the injuries, and necessary medical treatment.

Generally, all injury claims in Maryland must be filed in court within three years of the date the injury occurred, under the state's statute of limitations. However, because each situation is different, you should always get in contact with a qualified attorney as soon as possible after being injured to ensure your rights are protected.

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