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

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

In Nebraska, when someone is injured in an alcohol-related accident, they can almost always file an injury claim against the person who got drunk and caused the accident. But in some situations, the injury party might also be able to seek compensation from the person who provided the alcohol. When this type of claim is against an alcohol vendor, it's usually called a "dram shop" claim because alcohol used to be sold by a unit of measurement called a "dram." Similar claims against non-vendors are sometimes called "social host liability" claims.

Here's how Nebraska law applies to third-party liability claims for alcohol-related accidents.

Nebraska Dram Shop Law

Nebraska Revised Statutes section 53-404—Nebraska's dram shop statute—allows a person who's injured by an intoxicated minor to bring a claim against the vendor that sold the alcohol to the minor. For purposes of the statute, an alcohol vendor is basically any person or business licensed to sell alcohol. So, both places that sell alcohol by the drink, like bars and taverns, and places that sell packaged alcohol, like liquor stores.

Here is an example of Nebraska's dram shop law at work. Suppose that Dale, who is 19 years old, stops at Bill's Bar on his way home from classes at the local college. The bartender, thinking that Dale "looks 21," serves him quite a few drinks. Eventually, Dale leaves the bar. As he's walking down the front steps, he stumbles and falls against Pete, who is also on the steps. Pete falls to the ground and is injured.

Pete can bring a personal injury claim against Dale based on the theory that Dale's negligence was the cause of the accident. Pete can also bring a claim against Bill's Bar under Nebraska's dram shop law because the bar served alcohol to Dale, even though he was a minor.

Social Host Liability in Nebraska

The same statute that contains Nebraska's dram shop law also allows an injured person to seek damages from a social host or other individual who:

  • allows a minor to consume alcohol on the host's property, or
  • procures alcohol for a minor, unless the procurement occurred in the presence of the minor's parents and with their permission.

Here is an example of Nebraska's social host liability rules at work. Suppose that in the example above, 19-year-old Dale goes to a backyard party hosted by his neighbor, Hannah. Dale drinks several beers on Hannah's back deck during the party, then tries to navigate the deck stairs. While doing this, he runs into Pete and knocks him down the stairs, injuring him.

Once again, Pete can seek damages from Dale for causing the accident. Under Nebraska's social host law, he can also seek damages from Hannah, because she allowed Dale, a minor, to consume alcohol on her property immediately before the accident

Damages and Statutes of Limitations in Nebraska Alcohol-Related Accident Cases

Claims under Nebraska's dram shop law generally must be filed in court within four years of an accident. However, because every situation is unique, you should always contact an attorney as soon as possible after suffering an injury to ensure your legal rights are protected.

Nebraska allows "all actual damages" to be sought and recovered in a dram shop or social host liability claim. Common damages that are sought in these types of claims include medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.

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