Intoxicated drivers are a threat on roadways across New Mexico. If a drunk driver causes an accident, the victim usually sues the driver. That said, victims can sometimes sue the establishment that gave alcohol to the drunk driver. The government recognizes these establishments as dram shops and has passed dram shop laws to hold them accountable in these scenarios.
The attorneys at Flores, Tawney, & Acosta P.C. have helped countless car crash victims hold establishments accountable. We understand the nuances of New Mexico’s dram shop laws and fight our hardest to hold all at-fault parties accountable for their actions. Keep reading to learn more about these laws and how our lawyers can help you.
What Is a Dram Shop?
The term “dram shop” refers to any business that serves alcoholic beverages to the public, such as bars or taverns. The origin of this term traces back to the British measurement of alcohol known as a “dram,” which is equal to three-fourths of a teaspoon. While this may be an outdated term, most state laws still refer to establishments that serve alcohol as dram shops.
A few establishments that can be dram shops include:
- Nightclubs, and
These establishments are not automatically dram shops. New Mexico’s dram shop laws apply to them only once they get a liquor license.
Can Dram Shops Be Liable for Drunk Driving Accidents?
Yes, establishments that provide alcohol to a drunk driver can be liable if the driver causes an accident. This liability acts as a deterrent and helps ensure establishments serve alcohol responsibly. It also allows victims to recover damages from both the person responsible and the establishment that served them alcohol.
New Mexico Dram Shop Laws
New Mexico law creates civil liability for dram shops that serve alcohol to an intoxicated person. Civil liability means that the establishment must compensate for damages caused by the drunk driver.
Dram shops can also be subject to fines, suspension of alcohol sales, and revocation of their liquor license if they overserve. In addition to filing a civil claim, you can report the dram shop for violating New Mexico law.
When Is a Dram Shop Liable?
While New Mexico’s dram shop laws are quite extensive, they only hold establishments liable in certain situations.
First, the dram shop statute applies only to licensed vendors. This extends to restaurant servers and bartenders who work on behalf of a business that has a liquor license.
Second, the establishment can be liable only if:
- It sold or served alcohol to a person who was intoxicated;
- It was reasonably apparent to the establishment that the person buying or receiving the alcohol was intoxicated; and
- The establishment knew that the person buying or receiving the alcohol was intoxicated.
The term “reasonably apparent” does not mean that an individual employee must believe that a customer is drunk. Instead, the term has an objective meaning because intoxication is “visible, evident, and easily observed.”
Unlicensed Vendors Can Also Be Liable
While the dram shop statute applies only to licensed vendors, victims can still sue unlicensed establishments if their over serving of a patron led to an accident.
Social Hosts May Be Liable in Certain Circumstances
Dram shop laws also apply to social hosts, which are people who serve alcohol to guests at their homes, offices, or other locations.
Social hosts are liable if they provide alcohol “recklessly in disregard of the rights of others, including the social guest.” Under this standard, the victim needs to show that the social host was more than negligent. This often means that the host knew of a risk but ignored it.
Delfino v. Griffo is a well-known New Mexico dram shop case involving a social host. In this case, pharmaceutical representatives entertained a doctor with a night of food and drinks. After eight hours of wining and dining, the representatives saw that the doctor was drunk but helped place her behind the wheel of her car. The doctor attempted to drive home but collided with another vehicle, leading to the death of a young boy. Because the pharmaceutical company acted recklessly, the Supreme Court of New Mexico held that it could be liable for the damages caused by the doctor’s car accident.
Dram shop cases have resulted in significant damages, but New Mexico limits how much a victim can recover from dram shops and social hosts.
For personal injuries, a single victim can recover up to $50,000, or two or more victims hurt by the same incident can recover up to $100,000 total. For personal property damages, victims damaged by the same incident can recover up to $20,000 total.
If these limits seem low, it is because the victim should collect against the driver as well. The driver is the actual cause of the accident, while the dram shop or social host is a contributing cause.
Need to Speak with a Car Accident Attorney?
Drunk driving accidents often lead to serious injuries and emotional trauma. Navigating the legal process after the accident can be complex and overwhelming. The attorneys at Flores, Tawney, & Acosta P.C. can take on these burdens so you can focus on recovery. We have over 60 years of combined experience litigating personal injury cases.
Our lawyers will work tirelessly to gather evidence that proves your dram shop claim. We will do everything from interviewing witnesses to analyzing police reports to expose all the facts. Our attorneys will never stop fighting to recover for damages like medical bills, property damage, and pain and suffering. Call us today at 575-222-1000 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.