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

How South Dakota law handles third-party liability for providing alcohol to a person who causes an accident in a drunken state.

By | Reviewed by John McCurley, Attorney

In some states, someone who has been injured in an alcohol-related accident might have a legal claim against the business or individual who sold or provided alcohol to the intoxicated person. These claims are known as "dram shop" or "social host liability" claims. These types of claims are "third-party" claims that exist independently of any remedy the injured person might have against the intoxicated person who directly caused the accident.

Here's what South Dakota law says about dram shop and social host liability in alcohol-related accidents.

Dram Shop Liability in South Dakota

In the past, it was possible, in certain circumstances, for an injured party in South Dakota to seek compensation from the business or person that provided alcohol to the intoxicated individual who caused the injuries. However, South Dakota now has a law on the books that prohibits these types of third-party liability claims.

South Dakota Codified Laws section 35-11-1 states, "The Legislature finds that the consumption of alcoholic beverages, rather than the serving of alcoholic beverages, is the proximate cause of any injury inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person." In other words, you can't legally blame the provider of the alcohol for the actions of the intoxicated person.

Here's an example. Suppose that Dwayne goes to Rita's Restaurant for dinner and has several drinks. The waiter continues to provide Dwayne with drinks, even after it's obvious that he's extremely intoxicated. Dwayne eventually leaves the restaurant and gets in his vehicle. He runs a stop sign and collides with Padma, a pedestrian, injuring her.

In South Dakota, as in every state, Padma can sue Dwayne for causing the accident that injured her. However, Padma won't likely succeed in a civil claim against Rita's Restaurant for serving the alcohol to Dwayne. Although the restaurant may face criminal penalties for serving Dwayne after he was obviously intoxicated, it can't face civil liability from Padma due to the accident.

Social Host Liability in South Dakota

Like with dram shop claims, lawsuits against a social host who serves alcohol to guests (at a party or similar setting) are barred by statute in South Dakota. Section 35-11-2 states that "no social host" can be held civilly liable if a guest who consumed alcohol provided by the host then goes on to injures someone else.

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