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Dram Shop Laws and Social Host Liability in Colorado

By Peters & Nolan, LLC on December 6, 2021

A dram is a unit by which alcohol was measured in colonial times. Dram shops were establishments where alcohol was sold by the drink. Dram shop laws allow people injured by intoxicated customers of establishments that sell alcoholic beverages to recover damages from those establishments under certain circumstances. These laws hold bars, restaurants, and clubs accountable for serving alcohol to underage or visibly intoxicated customers.

What Are Colorado’s Dram Shop Laws?

Our state’s dram shop laws are contained in the Colorado Liquor Code at C.R.S. § 12-47-801. Under the law, to recover damages from a vendor for injury caused by an intoxicated customer, you must prove that the vendor willfully and knowingly sold or served alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated or under the age of 21. It is not enough to show that the bartender (or person serving alcohol) knew the customer was intoxicated. You must also show that the server was willful and knowing in his or her actions.

What Is Social Host Liability in Colorado?

Social host liability applies to private individuals who serve alcohol to guests. Under Colorado law, social hosts are not liable for bodily injury or property damage caused by an intoxicated guest, provided that guest is an adult. Social hosts can only be held liable for damages if they knowingly served any alcoholic beverage to a person under the age of 21 or provided a place for a minor to consume alcohol, as a result of which that minor caused bodily injury or property damage to someone else.

What Is the Legal Difference Between Actual Knowledge and Constructive Knowledge?

Social hosts can be held liable for damages caused by an intoxicated, underage person if they knowingly served alcohol to that person or provided a place for the minor to drink. In a legal context, knowledge can be actual or constructive. Actual knowledge in a social host situation means allowing a person the host knows is underage to enter and drink alcohol. Constructive knowledge, on the other hand, is knowledge that a person who is exercising reasonable care should have. A social host who allows a guest to drink, when the host should have known through ordinary diligence that the guest was underage, can be deemed to have had constructive knowledge that the guest was a minor.

What Are the Damages and Time Limits for Colorado Dram Shop Lawsuits?

Damages under Colorado dram shop laws are capped at $150,000 plus interest. You may be able to pursue compensation for your past and future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning potential, physical pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and other losses. The statute of limitations (time limit imposed by law) for dram shop cases is one year. Once that time has expired, your claim is forever barred.

What Should You Do If You Were Injured by an Intoxicated Person?

First, get medical attention for your injuries, then speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer. The intoxicated person who caused your injuries was drinking alcohol somewhere, possibly at a commercial establishment or at someone else’s home. Dram shop laws may apply if the person who caused your injuries was under the age of 21 or an adult who was willfully and knowingly served alcohol while intoxicated by a vendor.

Peters & Nolan, LLC was founded in 2004. Our Grand Junction personal injury attorneys have recovered millions for our injured clients. Call us at (970) 243-4357 to schedule a free consultation if you have been hurt by someone who was drunk. We can tell you if you have a dram shop case and what damages you may be entitled to claim.

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Peters & Nolan, LLC is your ideal source for high quality legal representation throughout the state of Colorado. Known for being personable and responsive, attorneys Andrew J. Peters and Andrew Nolan are aggressive trial lawyers with an excellent record of trying and settling cases in criminal defense, DUI/DWAI and personal injury.

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