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Brawls and laws: who is eligible for a patron’s injuries?

Many people may go out for a drink with friends, thinking it is going to be a great, fun night. While standing by the bar waiting to order, when suddenly, a drunken brawl breaks out right nearby. Suddenly, there is nowhere to go, and by the time the fight is broken up by security, instead of receiving a drink, the bar-goer receives a black eye and bloody lip. These scenarios happen often in bars across the country.

There are laws in 43 of the 50 states, including Florida, that place the liability of patron safety on an establishment serving alcohol. They are known as Dram Shop Laws, or Dram Shop Acts. These laws are intended to protect the public from damages resulting from the continued service of alcohol to intoxicated persons, or to minors.

They offer both premises liability protection in a drinking establishment, as well as compensatory damages in drunk driving or other outside events that took place as a result of the alcohol served. In Florida, the law does allow liability where alcohol is served to a minor or to someone “habitually addicted” to it.

In some states, a form of dram shop laws known as Social Host Liability also applies. One example of this would be a company party or picnic with an open bar or self-serve kegs. In these instances, the host could be held responsible for injuries – but Florida does not have such a law.

If a person is injured by a bar brawl, a drunk driver, or any other event resulting from alcohol consumption, they may be able to then file a civil lawsuit, against the alcohol vendor if the situation warrants. However, proving liability of a vendor is a difficult and complex task best handled by an experienced premises liability attorney.