Nevada Dram Shop and Social Host Liability for Alcohol-Related Accidents

When you’re hurt by a drunk person in Nevada, can you bring a legal claim against whoever supplied them with alcohol?

By , Attorney University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Dan Ray, Attorney University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law
Updated 12/16/2023

You're on your way home after working late one evening. A car runs a red light and violently collides with your car, causing you serious injuries. Turns out the vehicle that hit you was being driven by an uninsured drunk driver who spent most of the evening drinking at a local bar.

Unsurprisingly, the uninsured drunk driver has no assets you can pursue to get compensation for your injuries. But what about the place that served the driver? Can you recover compensation from the bar?

Unfortunately, no. Nevada is one of only a few states that doesn't make retail sellers and servers liable for injuries they cause by serving people who then harm others. After a brief introduction to liquor liability laws generally, we'll see what Nevada law says about liquor liability.

Liquor Liability Laws Generally

For much of our nation's history, the general rule for liquor liability was simple: Alcohol-related accidents are caused by drinking alcohol, not by selling or serving it. As a rule, there wasn't any legal responsibility for serving an intoxicated person who then injured or killed someone else.

Though popular with liquor retailers, this rule often produced unfair results. What about the injured victims, who sometimes found themselves disabled through no fault of their own? States eventually began to respond, enacting liquor liability statutes that impose limited responsibility for selling or serving alcohol to a person who then causes injuries.

While they vary considerably from state to state, these laws take two basic forms.

Dram shop laws. Long ago, taverns and pubs sold alcohol by a measurement called a "dram." Customers started calling these businesses "dram shops."

Today, a dram shop law is usually a statute that makes a liquor licensee—a person or business licensed by the state to sell alcoholic beverages—liable for injuries caused by their customers. Dram shop laws exist in most states, and usually impose liability only for selling or serving alcohol to an underage or clearly intoxicated customer.

Social host liability laws. "Social host" is just a legal-speak for someone who hosts a party or similar social gathering. When the liquor begins to flow, guests sometimes overindulge. Social host liability laws, though less common than dram shop laws, hold a social host responsible for injuries caused by their drunk party guests. Quite often, these laws impose liability only when a host serves underage drinkers, or allows underage drinkers to drink on the host's property.

Nevada Has No Dram Shop Law

Nevada is one of a handful of states that still follows, for the most part, the old "no liquor liability" rule. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 41.1305.1 (2023) provides that no person is liable for furnishing alcohol to a person who's of legal drinking age. "No person" includes people and businesses licensed to sell or serve alcoholic beverages to the public—bars, restaurants, liquor and convenience stores, and other liquor retailers.

Are liquor licensees responsible for injuries caused by providing alcohol to underage drinkers? No. Nevada law excludes liquor licensees from liability here, too. (Nev. Rev. Stat. § 41.1305.3 (2023).)

Long story short: In Nevada, there's no dram shop liability—period. In most cases involving an alcohol-related accident, when the alcohol was sold or served by a liquor licensee, your only chance at recovery will come via a claim against the drunk person who injured you.

Nevada Social Host Liability

Under Nevada law, a social host isn't on the hook for injuries caused by providing alcohol to a guest who's of legal drinking age. But Nevada does impose liability on a social host who knowingly:

  • furnishes alcohol to an underage guest, or
  • allows an underage guest to drink alcohol on the host's property or in a vehicle owned or controlled by the host.

(Nev. Rev. Stat. § 41.1305.2 (2023).)

Damages You Can Collect in a Social Host Liability Case

A Nevada social host liability claim is a civil case. If you win, you can collect money damages from the responsible social host. Common types of damages in these cases include:

  • doctor, hospital, and other medical bills
  • lost wages and employment benefits
  • amounts paid for replacement household and child care services
  • costs to repair or replace damaged property
  • emotional distress, and
  • pain and suffering.

Nevada law also allows punitive damages in extreme or outrageous cases. (Nev. Rev. Stat. § 41.1305.4 (2023).) Unlike the compensatory damages listed above, which compensate an injured person for their losses, punitive damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer and deter others from behaving in the same way.

Finally, Nevada's social host liability statute lets a winning party collect their attorney's fees and costs.

Statute of Limitations on a Social Host Liability Lawsuit

Nevada has a deadline, called a "statute of limitations," on filing a social host liability lawsuit in court. Under Nev. Rev. Stat. § 11.190.4(e) (2023), you must file your case in court within two years, usually from the date you were injured.

What happens if you miss the deadline and try to file suit after the limitation period expires? Unless there's an exception that lets you file late, the court will have to dismiss your case. You'll be barred from collecting damages for your injuries.

Get Help With Your Social Host Liability Case

Nevada law only imposes liquor liability in a narrow sliver of social host liability cases. It might seem like these would be easy cases to win, but that's rarely so. In addition to knowing Nevada's social host statute, you also need to understand how Nevada courts have applied that statute in past cases like yours.

Your best chance for success will come from having an experienced Nevada lawyer on your side. Your opponent will be represented by counsel. To make it a fair fight, you should be too. If you're ready to move forward, here's how to find a lawyer who's right for you and your case.

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