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

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

After an alcohol-related accident, many states allow an injured person to seek damages not just from the individual who caused the accident, but also from the business that provided the alcohol. These laws are called "dram shop laws." (Alcohol vendors were once called "dram shops" because alcohol was traditionally sold by a unit of measure called a "dram.")

Nevada, however, is one of the states that don't impose dram shop liability against businesses and individuals licensed to sell, serve, or provide alcohol. But Nevada law does allow social hosts who supply alcohol to minors to be held liable for damage caused by the minor's intoxication.

In this article, we'll examine what Nevada's dram shop law actually says. We'll also look at the state's rules regarding social host liability after an alcohol-related accident.

Nevada's Limited Dram Shop Law

Nevada Revised Statutes section 41.1305 specifically prohibits "dram shop" claims against purveyors of alcohol (those licensed to serve, sell, or furnish alcohol) and their employees. In other words, Nevada law effectively immunizes commercial alcohol vendors such as bars, casinos, and restaurants from dram shop claims.

Here is an example of Nevada's dram shop law at work. Suppose that Dana, a 19-year-old college student, stops at Tina's Tavern on her way home from work. The bartender knows Dana isn't 21 years old but serves her several drinks anyway. Eventually, Dana tries to get up from the bar, but she stumbles and falls against Peggy, who is sitting on the barstool beside Dana's. Peggy falls to the floor and is injured.

Of course, Peggy may bring a personal injury claim in a Nevada court directly against Dana, on the theory that Dana's negligence caused Peggy's injuries. Although the laws of some states would allow Dana to sue Tina's Tavern because the bartender knowingly served a minor (Dana) alcohol, Nevada law protects Tina's Tavern from dram shop liability. However, under Nevada Revised Statutes section 202.055, the bartender could be charged with a misdemeanor crime for knowingly supplying alcohol to a minor.

Social Host Liability in Nevada

Nevada's dram shop statute isn't as protective of social hosts (or anyone else who's isn't licensed to sell or furnish alcohol) as it is of commercial alcohol vendors. The law still prohibits dram shop claims for injuries caused by an intoxicated person of legal drinking age but allows an injured person to seek damages against a social host who knowingly furnishes alcohol to a minor or who allows a minor to drink alcohol on his or her property.

Here is an example of Nevada's social host liability law in action. Suppose that in the above example, 19-year-old Dana goes to a party hosted by her neighbor, Hank. Hank has set up a keg of beer at the party for guests and allows Dana to drink several beers, though he knows she's underage. Eventually, Dana tries to join the party in Hank's basement but down the basement stairs. She collides with Peggy on the stairs, and Peggy falls down the staircase and is injured. Under Nevada's social host law, Peggy can bring a claim against Hank for allowing Dana, a minor, to drink on his property.

Damages and Statutes of Limitations in Nevada Alcohol-Related Injury Cases

A dram shop or social host liability claim is a civil case, which means that liability is expressed solely in terms of money damages. Common types of damages sought in these cases include compensation for:

  • medical expenses
  • lost wages
  • value of lost housework and childcare the injured person would have provided
  • property damage, and
  • pain and suffering.

Nevada also allows an injured person to seek punitive damages in certain cases. Unlike compensatory damages, which seek to compensate the injured person for losses, punitive damages are used to punish particularly bad cases of wrongdoing.

Like other civil claims, a dram shop or social host liability claim in Nevada must be filed before the time limit set by the statute of limitations expires. In most cases, these claims must be filed within two years of the date of injury.

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