The Sun Sentinel published an article about a St. Lucie, Florida man who was arrested after finding several minor children drinking alcohol at his house. While the article and the police focused on the criminal act of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, or serving alcohol to a minor, there is another side which was not discussed. That is – the civil liability.
Florida’s Dram Shop Law
Several years ago, I was interviewed for an article on Florida’s liquor liability laws. Florida Statute section 768.125 provides:
Liability for injury or damage resulting from intoxication.—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.
So what does this really mean? It means that if any of these children got hurt as a result of their intoxication, the person who served them the alcohol may be liable for their injuries or death. If someone else got hurt or killed by a child who drank and drove after drinking at the party, the adult who served the alcohol may also be liable.
Who is more responsible – the child who drank underage or the adult who served them?
The law, in part, seemingly presumes that minors will try to break the law. They are presumed to not know the difference between right and wrong alcohol-related behavior, and puts the responsibility on the grown-ups to look out for our children. This is not without limitation, however, but it does provide a vehicle for those injured by underage people who had been drinking to pursue another avenue of recourse for an accident.
Florida’s civil law looks at the accident or crime as a whole; i.e. who contributed, could it have been prevented, etc. The statute above highlights one aspect of a civil claim for a crime victim. A person who sells or furnishes alcohol to a minor “may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor”.
Florida Liquor Liability Attorney
I’ve handled several “Dram Shop” cases throughout Florida, for injury and wrongful death, and on behalf of those killed or injured by a drunk driver or habitual drunk, even in cases on behalf of the minor himself who was killed after being served underage. Each case is very unique and should be discussed with a qualified attorney who understands the nuances of Florida’s Dram Shop Law.
While minors should act responsibly, the law requires adults to do the same under circumstances involving alcohol. Regardless, we all need to be responsible.
For more information on drunk driving victim rights or Florida's dram shop law, feel free to call me at 800-337-7755 or submit your question online.