What is a Georgia Dram Shop Claim?

A “dram shop” is the legal term for a bar or any other establishment that sells alcohol to members of the public. As a matter of public policy, many states impose strict liability on establishments that serve alcohol to individuals who cause injuries or death as a result of their intoxication. These laws vary from state to state—some apply to all intoxicated persons, while others apply only to minors. Some limit liability to cases involving intentional conduct on the part of the bartender, while others require only negligent conduct.

Below, we’ll take a look at Georgia’s dram shop law and what you need to prove to establish a claim under it.

Georgia’s Dram Shop Law

Georgia’s dram shop law is codified at Ga. Code § 51-1-40 .

  • Liability: Georgia’s dram shop law first declares that the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the proximate cause of of any injury inflicted by an intoxicated person upon himself or others. It then imposes liability upon anyone who:
    • (a) willfully, knowingly, and unlawfully sells, furnishes, or serves alcoholic beverages to any underage person and who knows that that person will soon be driving a motor vehicle, or
    • (b) willfully, knowingly, and unlawfully sells, furnishes, or serves alcoholic beverages to a person who is in a state of noticeable intoxication and who knows that the person will soon be driving a motor vehicle.

Notice that the language of the statute imposes liability on anyone who engages in this behavior—that includes social hosts as well as bartenders. But while the law imposes liability for a broad range of defendants, it also requires a level of knowledge that is much higher than mere negligence.

  • Who may sue: Anyone who is injured by the intoxicated person’s behavior, except the consumer himself, may sue the person who provided the beverages. Thus, Georgia’s dram shop law is a “third party” dram shop law—it allows people who are injured by the drunk driver to sue, but does not permit the drunk driver to sue for his own injuries.


  • Defenses to liability: The law also provides a defense to those who acted in reliance upon identification showing that the person they were serving the beverages to was 21 years or older. In other words, if an underage person showed identification claiming that they were 21 years of age or older, the defendant can use this as proof that he did not furnish the beverages willfully and knowingly.

Elements of a Dram Shop Claim

There are three elements that the plaintiff must prove in order to establish a dram shop claim:

  1. The defendant willfully sold or furnished alcohol to a person who was either under the age of 21 or noticeably intoxicated, and
  2. The defendant knew that the person whom he had been serving would soon be driving a vehicle, and
  3. The person’s intoxication caused an accident in which there was injury

Contact an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney

If you were injured by a drunk driver, you may be able to make a dram shop claim against the person or establishment that was serving the driver. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Lawrenceville, Norcross, and Covington.

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