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Charleston Bar and Restaurant Liability Attorneys

Alcohol-related accidents often cause serious injury or death. Over 3,800 people have been killed in South Carolina in the past decade in motor vehicle accidents involving a drunk driver. As many as 4 out of every 10 traffic deaths in South Carolina are attributable to drunk driving, well above the national average.

Unfortunately, when a drunk driver causes serious bodily injury or death to others, often times the drink driver does not have sufficient insurance or assets to make the injured party whole. However, it is possible that there may be other persons or businesses, in addition to the drunk driver, that are legally responsible for this wrongful act, such as the establishment that sold or served alcohol to that driver.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a drunk driver, it is important for you ton consult with attorneys who have experience in drunk driving accidents and dram shop / liquor liability law to ensure that all the potential avenues to recovery are fully explored.

Dram Shop / Liquor Liability in South Carolina

The laws governing civil liability for bars and restaurants relating to irresponsible service of alcohol are often referred to variously as dram shop laws, tavern liability, liquor liability, alcohol liability or social host liability. South Carolina statutory and common law governs the liability of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, social clubs, liquor stores, convenience stores and even individual people (social hosts) with respect to liability for the service of alcohol. In lieu of dram shop laws in our state, dram shop liability in South Carolina is based on statutory duties imposed on establishments licensed to sell alcoholic beverages that prohibit them from serving minors or intoxicated persons. The relevant statutes are as follows:

  • “No holder of a permit authorizing the sale of beer or wine or a servant, agent, or employee of the permittee may knowingly commit any of the following acts upon the licensed premises covered by the holder’s permit: (1) sell beer or wine to a person under twenty-one years of age; (2) sell beer or wine to an intoxicated person…” S.C. Code Ann. § 61-4-580.
  • “A person or establishment licensed to sell alcoholic liquors or liquor by the drink pursuant to this article may not sell these beverages to persons in an intoxicated condition.” S.C. Code Ann. § 61-6-2220.
  • “It is unlawful for a person to sell beer, ale, porter, wine or similar malt or fermented beverage to a person under twenty-one years of age.” S.C. Code. Ann. § 61-5-50.
  • “It is unlawful for a person to transfer or give to a person under the age of twenty-one years for the purpose of consumption of beer or wine in the State….” S. C. Code. Ann. § 61-4-90.
  • “It is unlawful for a person to transfer or give to a person under the age of twenty-one years for the purpose of consumption of alcoholic liquors in the State….” S. C. Code. Ann. § 61-6-4070.

Therefore in pleadings under the listing of negligent acts one must include allegations of violation of one or more statutes regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages. “In recognizing a private cause of action for a violation of these statutes, the Court of Appeals stated that their purpose is to promote public safety, and to prevent an already intoxicated person from becoming even more intoxicated, and thus an even greater risk to the public at large, when he leaves the establishment.” Tobias v. Sports Club, 332 S.C. 90, 92 (S.C. 1998).

A plaintiff must show that the bar knowingly sold alcohol to the intoxicated person. In 2010 the SC Supreme Court definitively held in Hartfield v. Getaway Lounge (697 S.E.2d 558) that the proper standard of proof is whether the bartenders negligently served alcoholic beverages to a person who, by his appearance or otherwise, would lead a prudent man to believe that the person was underage or intoxicated. Knew or should have known is an articulation of an objective reasonable person standard.
The present standard clearly establishes that the requisite proof is not limited to one that is visibly intoxicated, but encompasses considering if the bar served so many alcoholic beverages to the defendant that a reasonable person could expect that the defendant was or would become intoxicated.

If a restaurant or a bar knew or should have known that it was serving an intoxicated person, whether by signs of visible intoxication or based upon the type, number and time period over which the customer consumed alcoholic drinks, that restaurant or bar can be held liable for the resulting injuries and damages proximately caused by the drunk driver. Furthermore, the jury may infer that the alleged intoxicated person was intoxicated if their BAC was 0.08 or higher.

Our Dram Shop / Liquor Liability Team

Dram shop and liquor liability is a unique area of law, both from a practical and a legal perspective. Dram shop cases are fact intensive and require attorneys experienced in navigating the hospitality industry. Dram shop cases often turn on the issue of liability, making the timely collection and analysis of police reports, receipts, video, social media and eye witness statements crucial. It is important that a dram shop attorney be hired as soon as possible after a drunk driving accident, so that a full investigation can begin and the relevant evidence preserved.

Dram shop claims involve unique aspects of the law as well. For example, South Carolina’s scheme of modified joint and several liability does not apply to conduct involving the use, sale, or possession of alcohol. This has significant consequences in multi-defendant litigation, resulting in the ability to collect 100% of the damages awarded from a restaurant or bar that is just 1% liable.

Our team is experienced in conducting these investigations, determining who may be held liable for the injuries and fatalities under South Carolina law and developing an appropriate legal strategy. We are equipped to provide you with competent counsel and assist you in navigating this complex area of law.

Liquor Licensing Appeals

We also handle appeals of liquor license and beer & wine permit assessments and revocations by the S.C. Department of Revenue. If your restaurant or bar is put on notice of an intent to assess a fine or revoke your licenses and permits, we have the experience to provide competent counsel to assist you in negotiating a settlement or navigate the resulting administrative proceedings.

Consult with a Liquor Liability Attorney in Charleston

At Clawson & Staubes, LLC: Injury Group, our dram shop and liquor liability attorneys have extensive experience handling cases involving alcohol-related accidents. Our lawyers have represented restaurants and bar owners, social clubs, and individuals in cases arising from accidents involving the service of alcohol to intoxicated persons and minors.

If you or a loved one was hurt by a drunk driver who was over-served by a licensed commercial establishment, it may be possible to file a legal claim against that establishment for the role it played in your accident. To speak with an attorney at Clawson & Staubes, LLC: Injury Group about the events that led up to your accident, please call our offices at (843) 720-0810 today.

The inclusion of specific practice areas on the Clawson & Staubes: Injury Group website is informational in nature and is not an exhaustive listing of the areas of law in which the attorneys at Clawson and Staubes practice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to compare the type or quality of our services to the type or quality of any other lawyer or law firm’s services or to imply specialization or certification by any organization not previously approved by the South Carolina or North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization.

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