Dram Shop / Bartender Liability

Dram shops are legal terminology for establishments that sell alcoholic beverages, with the name being derived from the liquid measurement (dram) that was used for small amounts of liquor in colonial times. Dram shop laws allow these establishments that sell alcoholic beverages to be held liable for sale of alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who subsequently injures or kills another person.

Dram shop laws vary by state, but both Ohio and Kentucky have dram shop statutes. Ohio also imposes limited social host liability—statutes that allow homeowners or other people to be held liable for serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated guests who subsequently injure or kill other people—but Kentucky has no such statute.

Lawyer for Dram Shop or Bartender Liability Claims in Cincinnati, Ohio

Were you seriously injured or was your loved one killed by a driver who was operating vehicle under the influence (OVI) in the Cincinnati area? You will want to immediately seek legal representation for help determining whether an establishment should be held liable for overserving the negligent driver.

The Cincinnati personal injury attorneys at Steiden Law Offices fight for drunk driving accident victims all over Hamilton County, Clermont County, Warren County, and Butler County in Ohio as well as Campbell County, Kenton County, and Boone County in Kentucky. Call (513) 888-8888 right now to set up a free consultation that will allow our lawyers to review your case and see how we can help.


Kentucky Dram Shop Laws Information Center


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Overview of Ohio and Kentucky Dram Shop Laws

Ohio and Kentucky both have dram shop laws that impose vendor liability for sale of alcohol to intoxicated persons. Under Ohio Revised Code § 4399.18, a person has a cause of action against a liquor permit holder or an employee of a liquor permit holder for personal injury, death, or property damage caused by the negligent actions of an intoxicated person occurring off the premises or away from a parking lot under the permit holder's control only when both of the following can be shown by a preponderance of the evidence:

  • The permit holder or an employee of the permit holder knowingly sold an intoxicating beverage to a noticeably intoxicated person or a minor; and
  • The person's intoxication proximately caused the personal injury, death, or property damage.

Similarly, Kentucky Revised Statute § 413.241 states that alcohol vendors cannot be held liable for injuries caused by patrons “unless a reasonable person under the same or similar circumstances should know that the person served is already intoxicated at the time of serving.”

Kentucky does not have a social host law, but Ohio Revised Code § 4301.69(A) states “no person shall sell beer or intoxicating liquor to an underage person, shall buy beer or intoxicating liquor for an underage person, or shall furnish it to an underage person.” Ohio Revised Code § 4301.69(B) further establishes, “No person who is the owner or occupant of any public or private place shall knowingly allow any underage person to remain in or on the place while possessing or consuming beer or intoxicating liquor, unless the intoxicating liquor or beer is given to the person possessing or consuming it by that person's parent, spouse who is not an underage person, or legal guardian and the parent, spouse who is not an underage person, or legal guardian is present at the time of the person's possession or consumption of the beer or intoxicating liquor.”

While these statutes largely address criminal penalties for providing alcohol to minors, courts have construed social hosts as being liable for the injuries to or deaths of third parties caused by intoxicated minors who were served alcohol by the social hosts.


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Injuries in Southwestern Ohio Dram Shop Cases

Drunk drivers can cause any one of a number of types of automobile crashes, and the injuries the people involved can sustain may be severe. When a person is killed by an intoxicated driver who was overserved by an establishment or a minor who was illegally served alcohol, that person’s family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the establishment that sold the drunk driver the alcohol.

Some of the other types of injuries that people suffer in these accidents include, but are not limited to:


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Northern Kentucky Resources for Dram Shop / Bartender Liability Issues

2015 Ohio Traffic Crash Facts Book — According to this collection of accident statistics compiled by the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS), alcohol-impaired drivers were involved in fewer than five percent of all crashes in the state but they were involved in 31.17 percent of all fatalities. Chapter 6 of this Facts Book covers alcohol statistics, specifically, including crashes by crash severity and persons killed or injured in crashes by age of the alcohol impaired driver in error. You can also learn more about crash statistics by county or city/village.

2014 Kentucky Traffic Collision Facts Book — The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet annually releases a facts book that details crash statistics in the Bluegrass State. In this guide, you can learn more about alcohol related collisions, alcohol and drug collisions by area development district, and alcohol involvement by age and test results for drivers involved in fatal collisions. According to this facts book, 83 percent of the drinking drivers tested were found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.10 or above at the time of the collision.

Settlemyer v. Wilmington Veterans Post No. 49, Am. Legion, Inc. — The appellant in this case contended that the Supreme Court of Ohio’s 1973 decision in Mason v. Roberts “imposes a duty upon individuals who dispense alcoholic beverages to refrain from serving intoxicants to inebriated persons, and that this duty should be extended to the public at large, in that an establishment should be held liable for injuries to third persons which are proximately caused by the establishment in providing alcoholic beverages to intoxicated persons.” In its 1984 decision, however, the Supreme Court of Ohio found “it appears beyond doubt that appellant can prove no set of facts entitling her to relief,” noting:

The next question becomes whether Mason should be extended in order to grant appellant a cause of action. We do not believe such an extension is warranted herein. We find merit in appellee's assertion that a social provider of intoxicating beverages should not be held to the same duty of care that a commercial proprietor is subject to under Mason. As the appellee points out, the commercial proprietor has a proprietary interest and profit motive, and should be expected to exercise greater supervision than in the (non-commercial) social setting. Moreover, a person in the business of selling and serving alcohol is usually better organized to control patrons, and has the financial wherewithal to do so. It also is reasonable to conclude that by virtue of its experience, the commercial proprietor is more familiar with its customers and their habits and capacities.

Our reluctance to extend potential liability to the social provider of alcoholic beverages is in accord with the well-reasoned opinions of other courts which have broached this particular issue. See Miller v. Owens-Illinois Glass Co. (1964), 48 Ill. App.2d 412, 199 N.E.2d 300 ; Manning v. Andy (1973), 454 Pa. 237, 310 A.2d 75 ; Cartwright v. Hyatt Corp. (D.D.C. 1978), 460 F. Supp. 80 ; LeGault v. Klebba (1967), 7 Mich. App. 640, 152 N.W.2d 712. Cf. Coulter v. Superior Court (1978), 21 Cal.3d 144, 145 Cal.Rptr. 534, 577 P.2d 669 ; Wiener v. Gamma Phi (1971), 258 Ore. 632, 485 P.2d 18.

We are mindful of the fact that since the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment to the United States Constitution, virtually every aspect involved in the manufacture, sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages has been regulated by the General Assembly. Thus, we are of the opinion that any policy modifications which are designed to encompass the potential liability of social providers of intoxicating beverages should perhaps be deferred to the sound discretion of the legislature.


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Steiden Law Offices | Cincinnati Dram Shop Lawyer

If you suffered catastrophic injuries or your loved one was killed by a drunk driver in the Cincinnati area, it is in your best interest to retain legal counsel before you speak to any insurance company. Steiden Law Offices represents clients in these types of cases on a contingency fee basis so victims do not have to worry about paying us anything unless we get them financial awards.

Our Cincinnati personal injury attorneys help people throughout Boone County, Campbell County, and Kenton County in Kentucky as well as Butler County, Hamilton County, Clermont County, and Warren County in Ohio. You can receive an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call (513) 888-8888 or complete an online contact form to schedule a free consultation.


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