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Impact of Bartender serving Visibly Intoxicated Person in Pennsylvania

Posted on February 28th, 2016

According to the Penn Record, a New York citizen in 2013 reached a $6.6-million-dollar settlement with a bar in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The man argued that the bartender overserved him while he was severely and clearly intoxicated. At this point is where the tavern’s liability begins because it would have been obvious to any bartender that the man was unable to drive safely. The overserving was followed by the man getting into a traumatic accident that led to spinal cord injuries, resulting in paralysis and the end of his normal way of living. The injured party claimed his future medical expenses would surpass the $6.6-million-dollar settlement he received. This altered his life forever and he will never live like he did before the accident. The Pennsylvania bartender should have known that the man could not have possibly been safe to drive and should have stopped serving him, as the statute requires, when bartenders are able to identify a tremendously inebriated patron.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has responded to these situations by using Congress initiated statutes to ensure the most effective way to limiting irresponsible alcohol serving routines.  According to 47 Pennsylvania Statute § 4-493, the furnishing, selling or giving, of any liquor or malt or brewed beverages while licensed is legal until the person who is being served is visibly intoxicated. Under this rule, it is unlawful to serve a person who appears to be overly drunk. Pennsylvania has found visible manifestations to include loud and boisterous behavior, blood-shot eyes, poor coordination, and slurred speech. Zygmuntowicz v. Hospitality Investments, Inc., E.D.Pa.1993, 828 F.Supp. 346. Once bartenders have witnessed this kind of behavior, they need to consider whether or not to serve the patron’s next drink.

Serving this heavily intoxicated person is negligence by the bar or club and a clear violation of the Liquor Control Board’s rules as well as the Dram Shop Act. Pennsylvania’s motivating policy for this statute is to minimize drunk driving occurrences like the one from the Middle District of Pennsylvania. This is a smart and beneficial law to the public, making the roadways safer and reducing the number of drunk driving accident injuries. When the accident is particularly terrible, the Commonwealth may even take action against the tavern in order to place further liability on the bar and hold it accountable for irresponsibly overserving an individual and putting many lives in danger on the public highways.

The risk of that person’s life, and anyone else’s life who is on the road at the same time as the over served customer, is never outweighed by drink profits. The punishments under the Dram Shop Act and the Liquor Control Board will greatly outweigh any possible benefit the bar could have. Bar owners should be aware of such consequences and quick to cut off anyone close to visible intoxications to ensure that there is not as many drunk driving relating incidents within the state.

Ciccarelli Law Offices has decades of experience handling drunk driving cases. Our attorneys work hard to ensure the proper outcome of any motor vehicle accident related case. If you are injured in the accident, you deserve to compensated for your injuries. Contact us for any legal assistance you may need at 610-692-8700 or toll free at 877-529-2422. Our main office is located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, but we have satellite offices in many surrounding areas like Berks, Lancaster, Delaware and Philadelphia counties.