Will Minnesota’s dram shop law let me sue an alcohol vendor after a DUI accident?

Get the specifics on a business’s liability for an alcohol-related accident in Minnesota.

First, let's explain that a "dram shop" law is a civil statute that can be used to hold a business liable for providing alcohol to someone whose intoxication goes on to play a role in causing a drunk driving accident or similar mishap.

Minnesota's dram shop law can be found at Minnesota Statutes section 340A.801, and it says that anyone who is injured "in person, property, or means of support" by the actions of an intoxicated person can bring a claim against the person or business that illegally sold alcoholic beverages to the intoxicated person.

That means anyone injured directly in an alcohol-related accident may bring a lawsuit, as can any spouse, child, parent, guardian, or other person who suffered loss of support or other damages as a result of the accident.

For purposes of section 340A.801, "illegally sold" alcoholic beverages means that the business or individual sold alcohol to:

  • a minor, or
  • a person who is already intoxicated.

It's important to remember that an alcohol vendor's third-party liability for an alcohol-related accident exists in addition to the liability of the intoxicated person who actually caused the accident.

Example of Liability Under Minnesota's Dram Shop Law

Pamela stops at David's Liquor to buy a bottle of her favorite tequila. Pamela is slurring her words and her breath smells of alcohol when she comes to the counter. David even has to help Pamela count out the proper amount of cash to complete the transaction, but he completes the sale anyway.

A few minutes later Pamela runs a stop sign and collides with Lara's car. Police come to the scene and administer a Breathalyzer to Pamela, who blows a .15, meaning she was clearly driving under the influence of alcohol under Minnesota law.

Lara can definitely file a lawsuit against Pamela. (Learn more: DUI and Fault for a Car Accident.) But can she also sue David's? Probably, as long as she can show that Pamela was intoxicated at the time she came to the counter to buy the tequila. Those are pretty easy dots to connect given these facts, especially if there were other customers who can testify as to Pamela's behavior.

Can the Intoxicated Person Sue the Business?

In most states, the answer is no, and that's true in Minnesota too, as long as the intoxicated person voluntarily consumed the alcohol.

Notice Requirements and Minnesota's Dram Shop Law

If you're bringing a claim against an individual or a business under section 340A.801, you need to give that individual or business proper written notice of your case, which includes providing details about the sale of the alcohol and the resulting accident. Those are just the highlights of the notice requirements. For all the details, check the complete text of the law: Minnesota Statutes section 340A.802.

Finally, any lawsuit filed against an alcohol vendor under Minnesota's dram shop law must be brought within two years of the underlying accident.

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