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

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

In Montana, anyone injured by an intoxicated person can bring a personal injury claim directly against that individual. And, in certain situations, the injured person can also bring a claim against the business or person who provided the alcohol to the intoxicated person. These types of claims against businesses are called "dram shop" claims and against non-vendors are called "social host liability" claims.

In this article, we'll look at Montana's laws governing dram shop liability and the potential liability of social hosts after an alcohol-related accident.

Montana's Dram Shop Law

Montana Revised Statutes section 27-1-710—Montana's dram shop law—states that an alcohol vendor generally can't be held liable for furnishing alcohol to a person who then causes injury to another unless:

  • the patron was under the legal drinking age and the vendor knew the patron was underage or didn't make a reasonable attempt to determine the patron's age, or
  • the patron was visibly intoxicated.

Here's an example of Montana's dram shop law at work. Suppose that Dina stops by Tom's Tavern on her way home from work. She has several drinks at the tavern and becomes visibly intoxicated, slurring her speech, stumbling, and dropping her glass several times. Nevertheless, the tavern continues to serve her alcohol. Eventually, Dina gets up to leave but stumbles and falls against Paul, who is sitting on the barstool beside her. Paul is knocked to the floor and is injured.

Paul can file a personal injury claim against Dina for injuring him. And, under Montana's dram shop law, he can also file a claim against Tom's Tavern for serving alcohol to Dina after she became visibly intoxicated.

Social Host Liability in Montana

Montana's dram shop law specifies that it applies to a "person or entity" that furnishes alcohol. So, presumably, a social host could be sued under the same law for providing alcohol to someone who's underage or visibly intoxicated.

Damages and Time Limits in Montana Dram Shop Claims

Like other civil lawsuits in Montana, dram shop claims seek compensation in terms of money damages. Losses that are frequently pursued in these claims include:

Montana law also "caps," or limits, damages in dram shop claims at $250,000 for all claims, regardless of how many people are injured. Punitive damages in these cases are also capped at $250,000 and are not available in all cases.

Like other civil claims for injury in Montana, a dram shop or social host liability claim must be filed within the state's three-year statute of limitations. However, because each case is different, you should always consult with an attorney as soon as possible after suffering an injury to ensure your rights are protected.

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