It’s that time of year again. In the midst of the holiday season and changing weather, most of us in North Dakota and Minnesota are hunkering down and socializing with friends and family from the comfort of our homes and our local watering holes. At this time of year, it’s especially important to remember dram shop laws and how they apply to (1) bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to patrons and (2) individuals hosting social gatherings.
What Are ‘Dram Shop Laws’
Generally, ‘dram shop laws’ are statutes that provide for liability of a dram shop in the event that an intoxicated guest causes harm to another following the dram shop negligently serving the guest alcohol. For example: imagine a clearly intoxicated person walks into a local bar and gets served alcohol by the bartender. Later, this same clearly intoxicated person gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, gets into a crash, and injures another driver. In some situations, the bar could be held liable for the other driver’s injuries.
Different states vary in terms of what kinds of hosts are subject to dram shop liability. Some states limit this type of liability to commercial establishments (often bars and restaurants that have the ability to sell alcohol). However, other states (including North Dakota) extend dram shop liability to social hosts.
North Dakota Dram Shop Laws
The North Dakota Century Code Section 5-01-06.1 and subsequent case law establish that if you knowingly supply alcoholic beverages in a social setting to someone who is either (1) underage; (2) incompetent; or (3) obviously intoxicated, you can be held liable if that person later injures another. North Dakota law does not limit this liability to establishments that hold liquor licenses. Social hosts can be held liable if any of the above three situations occur.
Cases vary based on the facts at hand, and there are defenses in some situations. Such as, if a guest sneaks drinks out of your fridge, you did not “knowingly” supply them alcohol. Additionally, whether someone is “obviously intoxicated” is debatable given the different effects of alcohol on different people.
However, despite the defenses to dram shop liability claims, it is important for social hosts in North Dakota to take care when supplying guests with alcoholic beverages.
Minnesota Dram Shop Laws
Minnesota’s dram shop liability laws are similar to those in North Dakota when applied to bars/restaurants/other establishments with liquor licenses. Minnesota Statute 340A.801, subd. 1 provides, “A spouse, child, parent, guardian, employer, or other person injured in person, property, or means of support, or who incurs other pecuniary loss by an intoxicated person or by the intoxication of another person, has a right of action in the person’s own name for all damages sustained against a person who caused the intoxication of that person by illegally selling alcoholic beverages.”
Minnesota differs from North Dakota when it comes to liability of social hosts. Minnesota separates its dram shop law (regarding establishments with liquor licenses) from what’s known as “social host” liability. Minnesota Statute 340A.90 establishes that social hosts can be held liable for injuries resulting from supplying individuals under age 21 alcohol. Unlike the law in North Dakota, in Minnesota, social hosts can generally only be held liable if they supply alcoholic beverages to those under the legal drinking age.
What This Means For You
For dram shop laws to apply, a number of different elements must apply and different defenses apply to different factual scenarios. Although dram shop laws don’t apply in every civil claim involving alcohol, they are important to keep in mind.
If you host social events in your home and serve alcoholic beverages, keep tabs on your guests. Make sure everyone has safe rides home and take keys if necessary. Bear in mind that, in North Dakota, you can be held liable if you over serve someone and they hurt another. In Minnesota, you, as a social host, can only be held liable if you serve an underage individual and they end up hurting someone. However, in any situation, no one wants their fun evening to end in tragedy. Take the simple steps to help prevent needless injuries.
Whether you’re a guest at a social event, hosting a holiday party, or visiting your favorite bar, remember to drink and serve alcohol responsibly.
This article is for informational purposes only and is subject to our disclaimer.