drunk man holding vodka bottleDespite crack-downs on underage drinking on college campuses, we continue to see news reports about students under the age of 21 being injured or killed as a direct result of consuming alcohol. In a recent incident, a 20 year old student was killed in a fall from a “party bus.” Tests showed that she had been consuming alcohol prior to the incident. Underage drinking is not a new phenomenon, of course, but questions always arise: Who provided alcohol to underage persons, and who is responsible for the tragic consequences that often follow?  

Not limited to underage persons, drunk driving accidents tragically cause millions of deaths and injuries each year. While an injured person may sue the driver, of course, may he also sue the person or business who served the driver? 

Liability Cases 

There are two types of cases involving liability for businesses and individuals that serve alcohol. The first type of cases are those involving injury to the person who was served the alcohol while the second type of cases revolve around injuries caused to others by an intoxicated person. 

If an underage person is injured or killed after drinking, can the server be held responsible? In a 2016 case involving the death of a woman after being overserved in a bar, the North Carolina Court of Appeals held that the server could be sued for wrongful death after negligently providing too much alcohol. In that case, the person being served was over the legal drinking age of 21, but the same liability would exist if the bar had negligently served a minor. This type of liability is limited. If an intoxicated person causes their own injuries by driving a car, for example, North Carolina courts have refused to hold the server responsible for those self-inflicted injuries.  

What Is A Dram Shop Law? 

North Carolina is one of many states to enact a “dram shop” law, enumerating the circumstances under which an injured person may sue a business for injuries resulting from accidents resulting from serving alcohol. The legal concept of third-party liability allows injured parties to sue a third party whose actions indirectly led to an accident. Under the North Carolina Dram Shop Law, if an intoxicated minor causes a car accident, an person injured in the accident may sue the server in certain circumstances: 

  • The server must have negligently served alcohol to a person under the age of 21. 
  • The minor must have caused an accident while under the influence of alcohol. 
  • The accident must have been caused by the minor’s intoxication.  

North Carolina law also makes it illegal to serve an intoxicated person. While the law does not specifically create a civil cause of action for damages caused by an overserved, intoxicated person, North Carolina courts have found businesses responsible for damages caused by drunk drivers in some circumstances. The server must have continued to serve alcohol to a customer that they knew or should have known was intoxicated.  

Is An Individual Liable For Injuries Caused By Party Guests? 

“Social host liability” is not governed by statute in North Carolina, but courts have held social hosts responsible for injuries caused by people who drove after being served too much alcohol at a home or private event. For a social host to be responsible for damages caused by an intoxicated driver, it must be proven that the host served or provided the alcohol, that the host knew or should have known that the guest was intoxicated, and that the host knew that the person would be driving after being served. 

If you have been injured in a drunk driving accident, especially if the driver was a minor, the personal injury specialists at Campbell & Associates will help you explore all options for recovery for your damages. Call us at (704) 769-2316 for a free consultation.