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

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

If you're injured or your property is damaged by someone who's drunk, you can sue that person for compensation. However, you might also be able to seek compensation from the person who provided the alcohol. These types of claims are called "dram shop" claims if against an alcohol vendor and "social host liability" claims if against a non-vendor.

This article explains the details of these forms of third-party liability for alcohol-related accidents in Vermont.

Dram Shop Law in Vermont

Vermont Revised Statutes Title 7, Section 501 is the state's dram shop law. Dram shop liability applies if a vendor sold or furnished alcohol to a patron who subsequently causes an accident if vendor sold or furnished the alcohol to the patron:

  • who was under the age of 21
  • who was "apparently" under the influence
  • after legal serving hours, and
  • while it was reasonable to expect the patron would be under the influence as a result of the amount of alcohol served to the patron.

It's easy to see why Vermont's laws on third-party liability for an alcohol-related accident are considered some of the most liberal in the nation. The laws of most states are far more restrictive.

Here is an example of Vermont's dram shop laws at work. Suppose that Dana stops at Bill's Bar on her way home from work. Bill the bartender serves Dana several strong drinks. Finally, Dana leaves the bar and tries to walk down the front steps, but she stumbles and falls, bumping into Pamela and knocking them both down the steps. Both Dana and Pamela are injured in the fall.

Pamela can bring a personal injury claim directly against Dana for her injuries. Pamela can also bring a dram shop claim against Bill's Bar for serving Dana alcohol even after she was already apparently intoxicated.

Social Host Liability in Vermont

In Vermont, social hosts who throw private parties can be held liable under the same statute that allows dram shop claims to be brought against vendors. However, for social hosts, the liability under this statute is limited to social hosts who provide alcohol to underage guests.

Damages and Time Limits for Filing Vermont Alcohol-Related Accident Claims

The types of damages available in a dram shop or social host liability case depend on the specific injuries and losses suffered in the accident. Common types of compensation sought in these cases include:

  • hospital bills and other costs of medical care
  • lost wages
  • property damage, and
  • pain and suffering.

Vermont has a statute of limitations that effectively limits the time a prospective plaintiff has to file a dram shop or social host liability lawsuit. These kinds of cases generally must be filed in Vermont's civil court system within two years of the date of injury. However, always contact an attorney as soon as possible to ensure your legal rights are protected.

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