Like all business owners, establishments that serve alcohol owe their guests a level of reasonable care in operating their business.  If you’ve been injured while a guest at bar, you may have a viable personal injury suit.  There are three common legal principles your lawyer may utilize: Premises Liability (Innkeeper Liability), Dram Shop Act, and Social Host Liability.

Premises Liability Claim (Innkeeper Liability):

You may have a claim if…

(1) The bar was put on notice of the offending person’s vicious or dangerous potential by some act of threat;

(2) The bar had an adequate opportunity to protect the injured person;

(3) The bar failed to take reasonable steps to protect the injured person.


What is notice? Evidence of obvious intoxication and problematic interactions with bar employees and other patrons are examples of “notice.”

How can you prove the bar owners had notice? “When the totality of the facts and circumstances put the bar on notice, there is a duty based on foreseeability.”  See Henson v. Uptown Drink, LLC 922 N.W.2d 185, 192 (Minn. 2019)

Hypothetical: George is known as an instigator of fights at Bob’s Bar and Grill. While at Bob’s Bar and Grill, George knocks Sam out on the dancefloor. Can Sam recover monetary damages?

Questions to Ask:

  1. Did the bar have knowledge of George’s tendencies?
  2. Did employees observe George’s threatening behavior prior to the assault?
  3. Did George appear visibly inebriated prior to the assault?
  4. Did Bob’s Bar and Grill have proper security staff on the night of the assault?

Liable? Likely, yes. If the bar knew George’s reputation and observed his threatening behavior prior to the assault, Bob’s Bar and Grill may be liable for monetary damages.

Dram Shop Act:

You may have a claim if…

(1) Suffered an injury in person, property, or means of support OR suffered monetary loss;

(2) By the intoxication or another person or by the intoxicated person;

(3) You may have a claim against the person and the person who caused the intoxication through illegal sale.

Minn. Stat 340A.801

Hypothetical: Sandra goes to Bob’s Bar and Grill. The waiter looks at her license, sees that she’s 20 years old, but serves her alcohol anyway. Sandra consumes three drinks and leaves the restaurant. On the way home, Sandra ran a red light and crashed into Alex. Can Alex recover monetary damages?

Questions to Ask:

  1. Was this an illegal sale?
  2. Was Sandra intoxicated?
  3. Did Sandra’s intoxication cause the injuries?

Likely a viable suit. The waiter made an illegal sale of alcohol to a minor. Sandra was intoxicated and caused injury to Alex.

bar and barstool

Social Host Liability:

You may have a claim if…

(1) Suffered injury to your person, property, or means of support OR suffered monetary loss;

(2) By an intoxicated person under age 21 or by the intoxication of a person under the age of 21;

(3) You may have a claim against the person who;

(a) Had control over the premises and being in a reasonable position to prevent consumption of alcoholic beverages, knowing or recklessly permitted consumption that caused  intoxication OR;

(b) sold, bartered, furnished or gave to, or purchased for a person under the age of 21 years that caused the intoxication.

Hypothetical: Kelly threw a party at her parent’s house when they were out of town. Julia attended this party and brought her own alcohol.  Julia later drove home and caused an accident that severely injured Ted.

Questions to Ask:

  1. Did Kelly’s parents have control over the premises?
  2. Were Kelly’s parents in a reasonable position to prevent consumption of alcohol?
  3. Where did Julia get the alcohol?

This is a close one. It is likely Kelly’s parents will not be held liable as long as they were not in a reasonable position to prevent the consumption of alcohol.

If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver or while at an establishment that serves alcohol, call 651-455-1555 to arrange your free and comprehensive consultation, or send a request for more information. Click here to view Sieben & Cotter’s Personal Injury Case Victories.

The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only.  No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Sieben & Cotter, PLLC, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.  No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.