Injured by Someone Impaired by Alcohol or Controlled Substances?


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The impaired may not be the only party you can recover from.

            Dram shop acts, named after a historical unit of measurement for liquors, are now present in the vast majority of states. New York’s dram shop law gives those who are harmed by the actions of an intoxicated person a right to recover damages against “any person who shall, by unlawful selling to or unlawfully assisting in procuring liquor for such intoxicated person, have caused or contributed to such intoxication”. This means that if you are injured by an intoxicated individual, not only may that individual be liable for your injuries and required to pay damages, but the establishment or social host may be as well. This law is also accompanied by substantially similar companion laws regarding individuals under 21, and those impaired from use of illicit drugs or other controlled substances. In any of these cases, the harm alleged must be reasonably related to the impairment experienced from the substance. Dram shop cases are subject to a three-year statute of limitations. Now that we know a bit about the law, we can identify its elements and consider whether you have a claim.  

            When seeking to hold an establishment liable for the actions of an intoxicated individual, it must be proven that: there was an unlawful selling or procurement of alcohol for the intoxicated individual, and that the intoxication caused or contributed to the injury suffered by the plaintiff. In New York prohibited sales occur when alcohol is sold, delivered, given to, or procured for three classes of people: “(1) Any person, actually or apparently, under the age of twenty-one years; (2) Any visibly intoxicated person; (3) Any habitual drunkard known to be such to the person authorized to dispense any alcoholic beverages.”

            The first category prohibits furnishing alcohol to a person under 21 when it was known or should have been known that the person was under age.  Attorneys with Levene Gouldin & Thompson, LLP have successfully pursued claims against   homeowners and taverns who allowed teens to drink alcohol that later left and caused injury.

The second category prohibiting sales to a person who is “visibly intoxicated” is a matter often litigated.  Claims for liability have failed even when the driver of the vehicle was over the legal limit, but there is no evidence showing that the driver was not visibly intoxicated while being served at the establishment. However, persistent investigation sometimes uncovers witness testimony that the intoxicated individual was still served alcohol while unsteady, aggressive, boisterous, etc. before leaving and committing the injurious act.

The final category regarding service of alcohol to a “habitual drunkard” is a relatively ambiguous rule.  However, Levene Gouldin & Thompson attorneys have overcome this issue by finding sufficient evidence demonstrating that an establishment provided alcohol to an individual with a reputation for drinking to the point of intoxication.

Additionally, individuals who sell or procure drugs like marijuana, or other controlled substances, for the party causing harm, may be liable for your injuries under the dram shop related statute on controlled substances.

You should always be mindful of your level of intoxication and of the intoxication of those around you. Please drink responsibly. The New York dram shop law can be tricky to navigate, and it is always best to consider hiring an experienced attorney to evaluate your potential claim. If you or someone you know has been injured by a person under the influence of intoxicating substances, please call Levene Gouldin & Thompson, LLP today and ask to speak with our personal injury team at (607) 763-9200.