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Dram Shop Case Settles for $7M - Old City Philadelphia

The estate of a young man beaten to death by three intoxicated individuals settled with the bars that served the man's attackers while visibly intoxicated for $7M. The estate argued that just prior to the fatal beating, the assailants had been drinking at the establishments where employees served the men despite their showing signs of visible intoxication. Kevin Kless, the victim, was a 23 year old pedestrian who evidence would have shown was simply walking along the streets of Philadelphia with his girlfriend and another friend when the assailants approached looking for trouble. Two of the attackers were underage at the time and all three assailants pleaded guilty to the criminal charges.

To most folks, the term "dram shop" is not necessarily a common phrase. Unless you own a bar or you've been the victim of a drunken patron, the phrase itself is somewhat foreign. However, what "dram shop" stands for and how it can affect almost anyone, at anytime, in any setting, is perhaps more commonly understood.

So what exactly does "dram shop" mean? Well, in Pennsylvania, it's a privilege to hold a liquor license. In other words, for a bar, tavern or restaurant to serve alcohol it must apply for and obtain a license through the State. Attached to the license, (like a driver's license) are duties and responsibilities to the general public. With dram shop law, it's a licensee's duty to safely dispense alcohol. A licensed establishment may not serve a minor and it may not serve alcohol to someone who is exhibiting signs of visible intoxication. If the licensee violates this law, and the person served injures himself or another as a result of that violation, civil liability will attach.

Pennsylvania's Dram Shop Act reads as follows:

No licensee shall be liable to third persons on account of damages inflicted upon them off the licensee's premises by customers of a licensee unless the customer who inflicts the damages was sold, furnished or given liquor or malt or brewed beverages by the said licensee or his agent, servant or employee when said customer was visibly intoxicated.

47 P.S. ยง4-497. Moreover, while injuries most commonly involve automobile accidents and drunk drivers there are just as many instances of bar fights, pedestrian encounters and injuries to oneself that can be causally connected to service of alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person.

In an earlier blog entry we mentioned that while a person's BAC (blood alcohol content) level is certainly telling, it does not, by itself, mean the person was exhibiting signs of visible intoxication. Many factors are considered such as age, weight, height, whether food was consumed, and when, as well as the person's tolerance level for alcohol. Signs of visible intoxication may include slurred speech, staggering, glazed or blood shot eyes or a combative demeanor that is out of character. Similarly, when evaluating your dram shop case, a personal injury lawyer will look to see if there were any arrests, criminal charges or any pleas such as a plea to a DUI charge to advance his or her claim against the holder of the liquor license.

If you, a friend or a loved one has been the victim of someone who has consumed too much alcohol, know your rights. Contact the experienced personal injury and accident attorneys at The Pagano Law Firm for a free, no charge consultation.

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