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

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

In Wyoming, as in every state, if you are injured by an intoxicated person's conduct, you can bring a personal injury claim against that individual. And in many states, an injured person may 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.Wyoming, however, is an exception. Since 1985, Wyoming has had no "dram shop" law allowing an injured person to sue an alcohol vendor after an  alcohol-related accident  caused by a third party.  Some Wyoming towns, however, do impose dram shop liability in local ordinances. Wyoming also imposes criminal penalties on anyone who sells or gives alcohol to a minor, with some exceptions. Read on for the details.

What Is Wyoming's Dram Shop Law?

"Dram shop" laws are so named because, historically, alcohol vendors sold alcohol by a unit of measure called a "dram." In most personal injury cases, an injured person seeks damages directly from the person who caused the injury. In a dram shop case, the injured person can also seek damages from the vendor who provided the alcohol to the person who caused the accident.

Wyoming's "dram shop" law is more of a prohibition against these kinds of claims. Specifically,  Wyoming Statutes section 12-8-301  states that "no person who has legally provided alcoholic liquor or malt beverage to any other person is liable for damages caused by the intoxication of that other person." Remember, the injured person can still seek damages from the person who caused the injury. And if a vendor plays a role in causing the injury in a way that does not involve providing alcohol, the vendor may still be held liable.

Here is an example. Suppose that Della stops at Rosie's Restaurant for some drinks. Several martinis later, Della tries to leave the restaurant. On her way down the front steps she stumbles and collides with Pam. Both Pam and Della fall to the ground and are injured.

Wyoming law prohibits Pam from suing Rosie's Restaurant based on its serving alcohol to Della. However, Pam may seek damages from Della for causing the accident. If Pam or Della fell because the stairs were unreasonably dangerous, they may also decide to seek damages from the restaurant for  premises liability. But remember, the premises liability claim will be based on the restaurant's failure to keep its steps in reasonably safe condition, not on its serving alcohol

No Social Host Liability in Wyoming

In Wyoming, a person injured by an intoxicated individual also may not bring a civil claim for damages against a social host who provided the alcohol. For instance, in the above example, Pam would not be able to sue Della for her injuries if the accident had taken place at a neighbor's party, instead of at a restaurant.

However, a social host who provides alcohol to a minor under age 21 may be charged with a misdemeanor under Wyoming's criminal laws, if the minor is not the person's "legal ward, medical patient or member of his own immediate family," according to  Wyoming Statutes section 12-6-101.

Local Dram Shop Laws in Wyoming

In Wyoming, many cities, towns, and localities have passed their own ordinances allowing an injured person to hold a vendor or social host liable for providing alcohol to someone who then causes an alcohol-related accident. Although the Wyoming Supreme Court has struck down such ordinances in a few localities, many other ordinances remain active. It is important to talk to a local lawyer if you've got questions about a potential dram shop or social host liability claim where you live.

Damages in Wyoming Alcohol-Related Injury Claims

When an intoxicated person causes harm to another in Wyoming, the injured person may bring a  personal injury claimagainst the intoxicated person. The injured person may be able to receive compensation for his or her losses suffered as a result of the accident or injury (these losses are called "damages" in legalese).

Common  types of damages  in alcohol-related injury cases in Wyoming include:

  • costs of medical treatment, including hospital bills and pharmacy bills
  • lost wages if the injured person misses work due to injury
  • the value of lost future wages and benefits if the injured person is no longer able to work due to the effects of the injury
  • pain and suffering, and
  • property loss or damage related to the accident.

If you've been injured in an alcohol-related accident, your best first step might be to discuss your situation with an experienced attorney in your area. Learn more about  Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer.

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