If you've been hurt in Ohio by a drunk person, you can bring a claim for compensation (what the law calls "damages") against that person. But what happens if they don't have any insurance or other assets you can look to for payment? Can you recover damages from whoever supplied the alcohol? In Ohio, the answer is: Maybe so.
We start with a quick overview of liquor liability laws generally. From there, we'll find out what Ohio law says about liability for bars, restaurants, and other liquor retailers, as well as party hosts who supply alcohol to their guests.
Absent a statute or a court decision saying otherwise, typically there's no legal liability for serving alcoholic beverages to a person who's of legal drinking age—even if the person is clearly intoxicated. Why? The general rule is that alcohol-related accidents are caused by drinking alcohol, not by serving it. Several states follow this rule.
A dram shop law is usually a statute that applies to liquor "licensees"—bars, restaurants, liquor and convenience stores, and others licensed by the state to sell beer, liquor, and wine to the public. The law allows a person who's injured by a licensee's drunk customer to sue the licensee for damages. In most states, dram shop liability is limited to cases where the licensee sold or served alcohol to an underage person, or to someone who was clearly intoxicated.
A social host is simply someone who hosts a party or other social gathering. When the liquor flows, partygoers sometimes overindulge. A social host liability law holds the host responsible for damages caused by a drunk party guest. Most states that impose social host liability limit it to cases where the host furnishes alcoholic beverages to underage drinkers, or allows them to drink on the host's property.
Ohio has a dram shop statute. Found at Ohio Rev. Code § 4399.18 (2024), it allows a lawsuit for damages against an Ohio liquor licensee in two situations.