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Across the United States, an intoxicated person can be held responsible for any injuries or damages they cause due to their irresponsible behavior. Still, “dram shop” laws in many states permit an injured person to seek damages from the establishment that served alcohol to the intoxicated party. These laws are so-named because alcohol was previously sold in a unit of measurement referred to as a “dram.” 

Other states have similar laws that apply to social hosts who serve alcohol to their guests, which means they can also be held accountable for intoxicated individuals’ actions. For this reason, it is crucial to be aware of these laws so you can take the appropriate action. Here’s what you need to know:

Dram Shop Laws in Alabama

According to Alabama Code Section 6-5-71, an individual who an intoxicated person has harmed can seek damages against anyone or any business that has served alcohol to the person responsible “contrary to the provisions of law.” That means the law permits a lawsuit against a business or individual who unlawfully serves alcohol to someone who causes damage or injury.

A personal injury lawsuit usually involves two parties: the injured person or the plaintiff and the person or establishment who allegedly caused the injury, known as the defendant. Dram shop cases operate slightly differently because they involve a third party, the person or establishment that illegally provided the alcohol to someone. This law usually comes into effect when providing or selling alcohol to someone visibly intoxicated or someone who isn’t old enough to buy or consume alcohol legally. 

Social Host Liability in Alabama

On the other hand, Alabama has laws that apply to social hosts serving alcohol to guests, although these regulations are slightly different than those applicable to alcohol vendors. The dram shop laws apply when an individual, whether a vendor or otherwise, serves alcohol to another person that cannot lawfully consume alcohol. However, there are some nuances, so there may be situations where a person may not have a dram shop claim against a social host.

Regardless, social hosts are generally subject to the same rules as vendors. They may be held responsible for damages if they served alcohol to a clearly intoxicated guest or an underage guest.

All About Dram Shop Damages

One party can bring a successful dram shop claim to obtain “actual” and “exemplary” damages. Actual damages compensate the injured person for concrete, countable losses resulting from the intoxicated person’s behavior. You can recover actual damages for losses like medical costs for the treatment of injuries, costs of damaged property, lost wages and other kinds of compensation, and expenses associated with the rehabilitation and recovery from injuries.

The injured party can also pursue exemplary damages, known as punitive damages, which do not compensate the injured person for actual losses. These damages will instead punish the injuring party and deter such behavior from happening again.

The Statute of Limitations for Filing a Dram Shop Case

Alabama’s statute of limitations establishes a deadline for filing personal injury claims, which means that the injured party has a limited window for seeking damages against the intoxicated person. The statute requires the injured party to file a case in court within two years of the date of injury. If they do not file the claim within the time limit, the court will likely refuse to consider it. Regardless, it is always best to consult an attorney to ensure you know all your options and protect your rights.


Knowing Alabama’s dram shop laws and social host liability is vital if you work in an establishment serving alcohol if you love hosting gatherings, or even as a regular person who loves to go out for a drink. By familiarizing yourself with these laws, you can do everything in your power to safeguard your rights.

The lawyers of McCallum, Hoaglund & McCallum, LLP have more than 75 years of experience in the practice of law. We seek justice for our clients from our law firm in Birmingham, Alabama, in areas ranging from personal injury, medical malpractice, complex business litigation, and many more. Contact us today for a consultation.