Dram Shop Liability – Michigan
Dram Shop cases allow an injured victim of a drunk driver to bring a claim against the bar, restaurant, retail shop, or individual that negligently served the drunk driver alcohol, to recover for the victim’s injuries. In order to be successful in such a claim, the Plaintiff must establish that the negligent service or sale of alcohol directly contributed to the victim’s injuries. MCL 436.1801(3)-(11).
In most cases, the retailer will be legally responsible when it continues to sell or furnish alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated. There is no special test for visible intoxication, but rather, visible intoxication exists when it is apparent to a reasonable person that the individual is intoxicated. However, if the retailer sells alcohol to a minor (someone who is under the legal drinking age of 21), it is not necessary to prove that the minor is intoxicated. The mere selling of the alcohol is enough to establish liability.
Requirement of the Plaintiff’s Innocence
Anyone who wishes to make a dram shop claim must himself be innocent. In essence, this means that an individual whose injuries are caused, at least in part, by his or her own intoxication, may not bring a dram shop action against the retailer that sold him the alcohol.
Any claims that the intoxicated plaintiff’s family may have are also prohibited.
Social Host Liability
Under Michigan law, a dram shop action is not available against someone who serves alcohol in a social setting, and is not in the business of selling or furnishing alcohol, if the person to whom the alcohol was furnished was above the legal drinking age of 21.
Such an action, which is known as “social host liability,” is only available when the social host furnishes alcohol to a minor, and that minor subsequently causes injury to another as the direct result of his or her intoxication.