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Michigan's "Dram Shop" Law Liability

Like other states, Michigan is forced to confront the public safety and health issues caused by hundreds (if not thousands) of accidents each year that are caused by drivers who are later convicted on a charge of DUI/DWI. One of the methods adopted by the state legislature to deal with the tremendous financial burdens caused by these accidents is to allow, under certain conditions, the filing of lawsuits against the businesses that sell alcoholic beverages to customers that are obviously intoxicated when purchasing such beverages or who are not old enough to legally purchase or consume alcohol.

On this page, the Michigan DUI/DWI accident injury lawyer will explain how the State of Michigan deals with the problem of assigning liability for the actions of an “impaired” driver to someone whose only “contribution” to an accident was to serve alcohol to that driver. He will then explain the legal options that may be available to someone whose injury may be, at least in part, due to the fact that someone sold alcohol to a party that was either obviously intoxicated or was not otherwise allowed to legally purchase or consume alcoholic beverages.

The Michigan “Dram Shop” Law

The term “dram shop” is derived from the English and Colonial-American practice of referring to an establishment that sold alcohol “by the dram (where a “dram” or “drachm” is 1/8 of a fluid ounce). Although most modern retail alcohol sellers have no idea what a “dram” represents, the term is still used in legal circles in the context of describing any establishment that sells alcohol and, in particular, to define issues of a seller’s liability if an intoxicated patron is later involved in an accident.

Under Michigan’s “dram shop law,” a seller of alcohol can be held liable for the later actions of a customer if:

  1. the customer is “visibly intoxicated” when purchasing alcohol, or
  2. the customer is under 21-years-of-age

Regarding these two situations, Michigan law leaves the determination of who is (or isn’t) “visibly intoxicated” to the judgement of the server, bartender, or sales clerk. However, the widespread use of surveillance cameras and audio recordings makes it relatively easy for an experienced DUI/DWI lawyer to successfully challenge someone’s claim that a purchaser was not “visibly intoxicated” when that purchaser is later involved in an accident. However, failure to confirm that a purchaser is old enough to possess or consume alcohol is usually taken as evidence of negligence and thus exposes the seller to liability under Michigan law.

”Social Hosts” and Michigan Dram Shop Law

Although Michigan law specifically allows lawsuits to be filed against those who provide alcoholic beverages to a minor or to someone who is “obviously intoxicated,” lawsuits against a “social host” are not allowed. The intoxicated person can, of course, be sued as an individual who is ultimately responsible for their own actions but the host is specifically exempted by Michigan law from being named as a defendant in a lawsuit.

As with most other states, Michigan defines a social host to be an individual who provides alcoholic beverages to anyone who is not a minor and the social host is not routinely involved in the sale of alcoholic beverages as a part of an ongoing business operation. Thus, a home “party” or similar “one time” event would qualify as a social host and the host could not be held liable for the subsequent actions of a guest

Michigan’s social host exemption does not, however, exempt a social host from criminal prosecution if a minor is served, even if the social host is otherwise protected under Michigan’s social host rule. The only difference between a “social host” and a “dram shop” in this situation is that the social host could not be named as a defendant if an intoxicated guest later caused an injury to another.

Contacting a Michigan DUI/DWI accident injury lawyer

Although Michigan law is constructed in such a way as to punish those responsible for much of the alcohol-related carnage on our highways, mere knowledge of these laws will not make a real difference unless you are willing to stand up to those responsible for your injuries and other suffering!

If you, or a family member, were injured in an accident involving an impaired driver, your first step toward protecting your legal right to be compensated for your injuries should be to contact a Michigan DUI/DWI accident injury lawyer who is familiar with Michigan’s Dram Shop Law and how the provisions of that law could affect your ability to recover damages from those whose carelessness may have contributed to you losses. One such lawyer is the Michigan DUI/DWI accident injury lawyer at The Doan Law Firm, a national personal injury law practice with local offices conveniently located in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Lansing.

When you contact our Michigan DUI/DWI accident injury lawyer, you first consultation is always free of any charge and does not obligate you in any way to hiring us as your legal counsel. If you later decide to file a lawsuit, and that you would like to have us represent you in court, we are willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for a previously-negotiated percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.


Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

  1. After an accident, the responsible party's insurance company may try to reduce the claim amount. Commonly, insurance adjusters are trained to get information from the injured to assist in reducing the claim. Though some insurers are less guilty of this practice than others, it is important to realize that insurance companies are profit-oriented corporations and reducing claims results in increased profits for shareholders. This can create a situation for the injured in which they are offered a settlement that does not truly reflect the damages suffered. If you accept this settlement, you lose the ability to get more money should your injuries require further medical treatments. It is critical that victims get legal assistance in any personal injury case, and The Doan Law Firm is prepared to fight relentlessly for your rights.
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