In North Dakota, as is true in every state, if you're injured because of an intoxicated person's negligence, you can bring a personal injury claim against that person. But in some situations, your legal might not stop there. An injured person might also be able to bring a claim against the business (such as a bar or restaurant) or other third party that provided the alcohol to the intoxicated person. These types of lawsuits are normally called "dram shop" and "social host" claims.
In this article, we'll look at third-party liability for alcohol-related accidents in North Dakota.
North Dakota Century Code Annotated section 5-01-06.1—the state's dram shop law—allows an injured person to bring a claim against "any person who knowingly disposes, sells, barters, or gives away" an alcoholic beverage to another person who then causes injuries if the person receiving the beverage was:
Here's an example of a situation in which the dram shop law might apply. Suppose that Diane stops at Bill's Bar on her way home from work. She has several drinks, and the bartender notices that she is slurring her speech, having difficulty walking, and seems to have trouble keeping track of the conversation. Nevertheless, the bartender continues to serve drinks to Diane. Eventually, Diane tries to stand up from her barstool, but she falls, colliding with Pamela, who is sitting on the barstool beside her. Pamela and Diane crash to the floor and both women are injured.
Pamela can seek compensation directly from Diane via a personal injury claim for causing the accident through her negligence. However, Pamela can also bring a dram shop claim against the bar for continuing to serve alcohol to Diane even after Diane had become "obviously intoxicated."
North Dakota's dram shop statute is broadly written to cover "any person" who provides alcohol, not just vendors who are licensed to sell alcoholic beverages. So, a person who's injured by someone who was provided alcohol at a party might have a claim against the social host if the person who caused the accident was underage, incompetent, or obviously intoxicated when he or she was served by the host.
Here's an example. Suppose that Devin, a 19-year-old, goes to a block party hosted by Helen, his neighbor. At the party, Devin has several drinks, which Helen provides despite knowing Devin is not yet 21 years old. Eventually, Devin climbs into the driver's seat of his car to drive home. He has one passenger, his 20-year-old friend, Fred. Devin runs the stop sign at the end of Helen's block and crashes into a vehicle driven by Peter. Peter and Fred both suffer injuries in the accident.
Under North Dakota's alcohol-related liability law, Peter can bring a claim against Helen for serving alcohol to Devin, who was underage, as well as a claim against Devin for causing the accident. However, North Dakota's law specifically prohibits Fred from bringing a claim against Devin, even though Fred was injured as well. The statute specifies that a claim cannot be brought against a vendor or social host by an adult passenger who was riding with a drunk driver when an accident occurred.
Dram shop and social host liability claims are civil claims under North Dakota law. So, liability is expressed solely in terms of money damages. Damages in a North Dakota dram shop or social host liability claim are intended to compensate the injured person for losses like:
Like other civil liability claims, a dram shop claim must be filed in a North Dakota court before the time limit set by the state's "statute of limitations" expires. In most cases, the statute of limitations is six years. However, always consult an attorney as soon as possible after suffering an injury to ensure your rights are protected.