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Dram shop laws address the responsibility of bars and restaurants to responsibly serve alcohol to patrons. Georgia is one of 38 states that applies these laws to any business that sells or a host who serves alcoholic drinks.

The provider must serve responsibly

While bars cannot always be held responsible for the actions of patrons, if they knowingly serve someone under the legal drinking age or someone who is visibly intoxicated already, they may be.

For example, if a minor goes to a restaurant and the wait staff serves them with the knowledge that they are underaged, the establishment may be responsible for when that minor gets in a fight and injures another person.

Only an establishment with a license to sell alcoholic beverages can be liable for individuals who consume alcohol without the consent of the server. For example, if someone sneaks drinks into a movie theatre, the theatre will likely not be responsible for the damages they cause. However, if an underaged person gets drinks through an of-age friend in a bar, the bar may be liable for injury or damage caused by the underage drinker.

Some that serve alcohol without a license, though can also be responsible. For example, if a host serves drinks to someone in their house, when they know the drinker will drive later, they may be liable for accident or injury that results in drunk driving.

The drinker is ultimately responsible

Georgia Code Title 51 addresses dram shop laws, recognizing that it is the consumption of alcohol that leads to injury, death or damage, not necessarily the sale or serving of alcohol. If an of-age drinker is in a bar and has three drinks and does not seem to be intoxicated, but later drives drunk and gets in an accident, it’s possible that the bar is not responsible.

Similarly, establishments that serve alcohol are not going to be held liable for injuries or damages suffered by the consumer. Dependent on the situation and the server’s knowledge of the situation, they may be responsible for damages or injury to others.

The server must have supplied drinks knowingly and willfully to someone underage or overly intoxicated. If you or a loved one sustains injury due to the actions of an intoxicated person, you will likely need to prove that they were knowingly served improperly.