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Can a store be held liable for selling alcohol to a drunk driver?

Posted on August 5, 2015 in

When hearing about an accident involving a drunk driver, many of us mistakenly think the liability starts and ends with the driver who was drunk. However, under Georgia’s dram shop liability law, this assumption is not always correct.

Dram shop liability — and what it means to Georgia residents — was recently the topic of discussion after the state’s Supreme Court ruled that convenience store clerks and store owners can be held responsible if they sell alcohol to an already intoxicated person who goes on to get into an accident that injures others. 

The ruling came after a Clinch County convenience store was sued after a customer came in — already drunk — and purchased more alcohol. After buying the beer, this same customer went on to get into a car accident that took his own life, along with the lives of five others. 

As for the ruling though, the president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores said the decision is nothing new, as the association has always warned members that they can be held liable for selling alcohol to already intoxicated customers who go on to cause accidents where others are injured or killed. 

The liability also goes well beyond convenience stores owners and clerks. In fact, anyone who sells, serves or supplies alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated or underage — and will be driving soon — can end up being held liable if he or she causes an accident.

The end message is for those who are injured in car accidents, or those who lose a loved one due to a drunk driver, keep in mind that there may be more than one responsible party for the accident. 

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