Restaurant Law Blog

Saturday, May 28, 2011

New York Dram Shop Claims Require Experienced Restaurant Attorney

A Dram Shop Claim in New York City can be devastating to a tavern, bar or restaurant.

New York City restaurant attorneys understand that busy Friday and Saturday nights -- or busy holiday weekends like Memorial Day -- are often what push a small business over the line and into profitability. Responsible waitresses or bartenders do not serve intoxicated patrons. But neither should you be charged with babysitting grown adults.

And yet that is essentially what is required of you under New York law. A dram shop claim can seek civil damages from a restaurant or bar that served an intoxicated patron in the event that the patron is later involved in serious or fatal accident. The law also applies to cases in which an intoxicated patron gets into a physical fight with an innocent part.

The term "Dram Shop" is derived from Old World English, when liquor was sold over shop counters in units of measure known as "drams."

In cases in which a restaurant or bar owner learns that a patron was involved in a serious or fatal accident, a New York City Dram Shop lawyer should be consulted immediately. Often, law enforcement will show up at your business looking for surveillance videos or bar tabs, under the guise of gathering evidence against a defendant for use in a criminal case. Most responsible business owners want to help in the wake of a tragedy and don't want to be seen as hindering an investigation. However, the same evidence used to convict a defendant could end up being used against you in a Dram Shop lawsuit.

New York's Dram Shop Law requires:

-That the defendant causing the injury was intoxicated.

-That the employee who served the alcohol knew or should have known that the defendant was visibly intoxicated (or a known drunk).

-That the served alcohol caused or contributed to the defendant's intoxication.

What constitutes "visibly intoxicated" is legally complex and has been complicated by court rulings. However, when your business learns that a patron caused serious harm to someone after leaving your establishment, it is critical to consult with a Manhattan restaurant lawyer and to conduct an internal investigation in the immediate aftermath. Knowing what occurred, and assessing the associated liability, is a critical first step to protecting your rights and the survival of your business.

James DiPasquale, Esq.

DIPASQUALE LAW GROUP

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