If you have been injured by a drunken driver and there appears to be little or no hope of getting compensated for your injuries, there may be another source of payment for your damages.
Depending on the circumstances, you may have a claim under the Connecticut Dram Shop Act. The term dram shop originates from 18th century England where "gin-shops" sold gin by the dram or small amount. Dram shops could include the following type of alcohol sellers: bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and clubs.
In a Connecticut Supreme Court case, which this office argued, the Court held in Craig v. Driscoll (2003) that the dram shop act allowed for a negligence claim in addition to recovery under the dram shop statute. Although the Court held that under certain circumstances, a separate negligence claim could be viable the Connecticut legislature immediately amended the statute to prohibit a negligence case of action against a dram shop for "negligence in the sale of alcoholic liquor to a person twenty-one years of age or older."
The current Dram Shop Act makes a liquor seller liable to an injured third party if the seller or his or her employee sells liquor to an already intoxicated person. The act limits the damages a liquor seller must pay to injured people to $250,000 which actual amount of liability is to be decided in Court.
If you are going to make a claim under the statute, an injured party must notify the seller of his or her intention to sue for damages within (1) 120 days of the incident causing harm; or (2) 180 days of the incident causing harm in the case of death or incapacity of the injured party. The written notice must state (1) the time and day of the sale and to whom it was made; (2) the name and address of the injured party; and (3) the time, day, and place of injury. Suits must be brought within one year of the sale. The act prohibits negligence actions for conduct covered by the dram shop act involving serving someone age 21 or older. See Connecticut General Statutes section 30-102.
Although the Dram Shop Act specifically prohibits negligence actions for conduct by the act involving serving someone age 21 or older, it may be possible to bring a civil action alleging other types of conduct not covered by the act. At least one Superior Court found that a social host who is an occupier of land can be liable for the negligent service of alcohol to an adult under the common law (Piontokowski v. Agan, 2009 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1927 (2009)). While there is no binding authority, it is possible that this and other types of conduct could be the basis of a negligence claim.
Richard P. Hastings is a personal injury lawyer with the office of Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, in Ridgefield, CT. He is the author of the books: "The Crash Course on Child Injury Claims" and "The Crash Course On Personal Injury Claims in Connecticut." He can be reached at 203-438-7450 or by visiting www.hcwlaw.com.