North Carolina has a state law known as the Dram-Shop act. This law is commonly known as social host liability. Social host liability means that you are held responsible for someone's actions when you serve them alcohol to the point of intoxication. Usually, this law is used to hold bars responsible for drunk drivers. As a North Carolina injury attorney I have had numerous Dram-Shop cases and met with a new case today. The application of a Dram-Shop case can be very technical and the purpose of this entry is to give the basic reader the understanding of how it applies so that they may seek proper legal representation when required.
At its' most simple application, when you knew or should have known that someone you served alcohol to was intoxicated when you continued to serve them, their subsequent drunken conduct becomes your responsibility. This frequently applies to when the drunk driver hits the road and causes a collision after leaving a bar that fed them him too much alcohol. Serious injuries , even wrongful death is the sad result of many such reckless actions. We all think of the bar serving too much alcohol, but this also applies to hosting a party at your house and allowing drunken invitees to leave on their own. The message is that if you have a party where alcohol is served, keep an eye on your guests. If they are the slightest bit intoxicated, insist that they call a taxi or be the person who calls the taxi for them.
From the preceding example, one can see that a Dramshop case is strict liability. North Carolina has limited social host strict liability to a one year statute of limitations. Many attorneys are unfamiliar with this shortened limitations period in which to bring an action on their client's behalf. The general public is even less likely to know of this pitfall. Therefore, finding the right attorney as soon as you can is extremely important! Once this year has passed, recovery may become impossible for what may be a tragic injury.
Another reason to seek counsel for alcohol related injuries is because Dramshop cases extend beyond drunk driving. I have had numerous cases involving drunken assaults by bar employees and their patrons. While assault remains a theory with a three year statute of limitations, the ability to bring a Dramshop claim is worth operating under the one year timeframe for numerous strategic reasons that are too many to address in this article. Therefore, knowing a Dramshop case may exist is critical.
Alcohol related injuries inflicted on the unsuspecting cannot be tolerated. Those who allow someone to achieve the level of intoxication should be held responsible for the drunken person's actions because it is the supplier of alcohol that is typically getting paid to serve the intoxicated their alcohol. They have and continue to profit off of intoxication and must be held accountable when this intoxication results in injuries.