A person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person, except that a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or who knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person.
Florida, like most states, has what’s known as a “Dramshop Act.” What these statutes do, essentially, is provide a way to sue an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages when a patron becomes intoxicated and injures or kills himself or herself or someone else. However, Florida does not have a traditional Dramshop Act. Instead, the Florida legislature passed a “reverse Dramshop Act” which restricts liability to two limited exceptions: when the liquor was furnished to a minor or when it was furnished to a “habitual drunkard.” §768.125, Fla. Stat.
A “habitual drunkard” has been defined by Florida courts as “someone whose habit of indulgence in strong drink is so fixed that he cannot resist getting drunk anytime the temptation is offered, with the inebriety frequent, excessive, and the dominant passion.” Todd v. Todd, 56 So. 2d 441, 442 (Fla. 1951).
Under Florida’s statutory scheme, it would be difficult to impose liability on a restaurant or tavern for negligently serving alcohol to an adult. This is because Florida law requires the Plaintiff to prove the employees who furnished the alcohol actually knew the patron was addicted to alcohol when they served him. Florida’s law is widely criticized by Plaintiffs’ lawyers. Unlike dramshop legislation in other states, Florida’s law does not provide a cause of action for injuries resulting from furnishing alcohol to an “obviously intoxicated person.”
Many people are unaware there may be a claim against a bar, store or restaurant under certain circumstances in Florida, making it especially important to seek legal advice when injuries or death are caused by or to a minor or habitual drinker who becomes intoxicated and causes an accident. These tragic cases require a thorough and careful investigation and analysis. Peter M. Commette, P.A. has had the opportunity to represent people with “Dramshop” claims. Just recently, we were able to secure a substantial settlement for a mother and father who tragically lost their 19-year-old son after he was served to the point of intoxication and was killed in a one vehicle motorcycle accident on his way home.