Microbrewery Liability When a Customer Gets Into a Drunk Driving Accident

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Microbreweries are popping up all across the country. In California, there are more than 900 craft breweries registered in the state. Microbreweries often serve up interesting and unique brews, drawing beer lovers from near and far.

It’s easy to get carried away with the selection some craft brewers have to offer. Some breweries have tens of beers on tap at a given time. Many of these beers have a high alcohol concentration. As a result, it’s easy to get drunk while visiting a microbrewery. Unfortunately, some people will get into their cars after trying a few too many beers and drive away.

What happens if a customer gets into an accident after visiting a California microbrewery? Can they brewery be held responsible for any damage, injuries, or deaths caused by the drunk driver? Generally speaking, the answer is no. However, there are certain times when a microbrewery could be responsible for the actions of a drunk driver.

California Law Limits Liability of Bartenders and Microbreweries

Each state in the country has what are known as “dram shop” laws. These laws address the legal responsibility of bartenders and bar owners for injuries caused by drunk drivers. In California, dram shop laws protect drinking establishments – including microbreweries – from liability for harm caused by a drunk customer after they leave the premises.

According to California Civil Code Section 1714, drinking is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted by a drunk driver. Providing alcohol to that person, on the other hand, is not typically considered a proximate cause of those injuries. This means that you generally can’t be responsible for the actions of someone you’ve served a drink.

Microbreweries Could Be Liable For Serving Underage or Habitually Drunk Customers

According to personal injury attorney Sherwin Arzani, “There are certain times when microbreweries and/or its bartenders could be held personally responsible for harm caused by drunk drivers.” He goes on to explain,  “Specifically, liability may exist if the microbrewery served customers who were either underage or habitually drunk.”

Serving Underage Customers at a Microbrewery

It’s illegal to sell or serve an alcoholic beverage to anyone under the age of 21. Microbreweries are responsible for checking identification. They have to make sure that they’re only serving adults. A brewery can face some serious legal consequences if it allows underage drinking to happen on its property. A brewery can also be liable for harm caused to or by an underage customer.

Overserving Customers at a Microbrewery

Bartenders and breweries should keep an eye on patrons and make sure that they’re not drinking too much. In fact, it’s a crime to overserve guests at a microbrewery. Under California Business and Professional Code 25602 BPC, it’s illegal to provide alcohol to:

  • “Any habitual or common drunkard, or to
  • Any obviously intoxicated person.”

If a bartender at a microbrewery can see that a customer is obviously drunk, they’re prohibited from serving them more alcohol. Serving that person is against the law and can trigger liability if they’re involved in an accident.

Drivers Personally Responsible For Damage Caused by Accidents

So, microbreweries aren’t typically responsible for harm caused by the customers they’ve served. Accident victims should seek compensation directly from the drunk driver who caused their injuries.

Drivers can be responsible for any property damage, physical injury, or death that they’ve caused. If the driver was underage or served while obviously intoxicated, victims can also attempt to recover compensation from the bartender or brewery.

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