Alcohol

Arizona's Dram Shop Law

This article provides a brief overview of Arizona’s dram shop law, which is intended to discourage business owners and their employees from over-serving alcohol to already-intoxicated customers and from serving alcohol to customers who are under the legal drinking age.

 What is a dram shop?

A “dram shop” is a bar, tavern, pub, night club, licensed restaurant, or similar business that sells alcoholic beverages.

Historically, such businesses sold spirits by the dram (also known as a drachm), a unit of weight equivalent to one eighth of an ounce.

What are dram shop laws?

Dram shop laws are laws that make people who serve alcohol to someone who is intoxicated legally responsible (“liable”) to anyone who is subsequently injured or killed by the intoxicated person.

Some dram shop laws also make people who serve alcohol to anyone who is under the legal drinking age (which is 21 in Arizona) liable to anyone who is subsequently injured or killed by the underage drinker.

To whom do dram shop laws apply?

Where dram shop laws exist, they always apply to businesses that serve alcoholic beverages, making such businesses liable if they serve alcohol to a customer who is already intoxicated or to a customer who is under the legal drinking age and that customer then injures or kills someone.

They sometimes also apply to social (e.g. party) hosts, making such hosts liable if they serve alcohol to a guest who is already intoxicated or to a guest who is under the legal drinking age and that guest then injures or kills someone.

When are dram shop laws most often used?

 Dram shop laws are most often used in lawsuits to support the legal arguments of a person who was injured by an intoxicated driver and/or a driver under the legal drinking age.

When a person is killed by an intoxicated driver and/or a driver under the legal drinking age, then dram shop laws are similarly used to support the legal arguments of whomever is suing the responsible party for their loved one’s wrongful death.

What is the main purpose of dram shop laws?

The main purpose of dram shop laws is to discourage people who serve alcoholic beverages from serving alcohol either to people who are already intoxicated or to people who are under the legal drinking age by making them legally liable for the payment of financial compensation (“monetary damages”) if they do so and someone is injured or killed as a result.

Does Arizona have a dram shop law?

Yes. Several sections of Title 4 (“Alcoholic Beverages”) of the Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) address the issue of the legal responsibility of businesses that serve alcoholic beverages.

Arizona’s dram shop law does not apply to social hosts who serve alcohol. It applies only to businesses that are licensed to sell alcohol.

However, it should be noted that a social host whose guest is served alcohol at a party despite already being intoxicated or whose guest is served alcohol at a party despite being under the legal drinking age still may be sued under other laws (such as the common law tort of “negligence”) if that guest later injures or kills someone.

What does Arizona’s dram shop law say?

In Arizona law, the owners of businesses that serve alcoholic beverages are known as “licensees” because they are licensed to sell alcohol by the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control (ADLLC).

Under A.R.S. § 4-244, it is unlawful for:

  1. a licensee or other person “to serve, sell or furnish spirituous liquor to a disorderly or obviously intoxicated person”

(“obviously intoxicated” means “inebriated to the extent that a person’s physical faculties are substantially impaired and the impairment is shown by significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction that would have been obvious to a reasonable person”)

  1. a licensee or employee of the licensee “to allow or permit a disorderly or obviously intoxicated person to come into or remain on or about the premises”

(with the exception that the owner or employee may allow an obviously intoxicated person to remain on the premises for up 30 minutes in order to ensure that a non-intoxicated person is able to transport the obviously intoxicated person off the premises)

Under A.R.S. § 4-301, only a licensee or employee of a licensee acting during the employee’s working hours or in connection with such employment – not a social host – is “liable in damages to any person who is injured, or to the survivors of any person killed, or for damage to property, which is alleged to have been caused in whole or in part by reason of the furnishing or serving of spirituous liquor to a person of the legal drinking age.”

Under A.R.S. § 4-311, a licensee is liable for property damage and personal injuries or is liable to a person who may bring an action for wrongful death, or both, if a court or jury finds all of the following:

  1. “the licensee sold spirituous liquor either to a purchaser who was obviously intoxicated, or to a purchaser under the legal drinking age without requesting identification containing proof of age or with knowledge that the person was under the legal drinking age”;
  2. “the purchaser consumed the spirituous liquor sold by the licensee”; and
  3. “the consumption of spirituous liquor was a proximate cause of the injury, death or property damage”

(if the consumption of alcohol by one person was the “proximate cause” of another person’s injury, it means that the other person’s injury was a direct and foreseeable result of the first person’s consumption of alcohol)

Does Arizona’s dram shop law limit the amount of monetary damages that an injured person may recover?

No. In one case in 2017 (which has since been appealed and remanded to the trial court), an Arizona jury awarded an injured person almost $8 million in monetary damages. It was alleged that the intoxicated customer who rear-ended the injured person had consumed 11 beers in 3 hours.

Sources and further reading

Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control – “Frequently Asked Questions”: https://azliquor.gov/faq.cfm

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 4-244: https://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=https://www.azleg.gov/ars/4/00244.htm

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 4-301: https://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=https://www.azleg.gov/ars/4/00301.htm

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 4-311: https://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=https://www.azleg.gov/ars/4/00311.htm

National Conference of State Legislatures – “Dram Shop Liability State Statutes”: http://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/dram-shop-liability-state-statutes.aspx

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – “Arizona State Report: Underage Drinking Prevention and Enforcement, 2018”: https://www.stopalcoholabuse.gov/media/ReportToCongress/2018/state_reports/arizona_profile.pdf

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

Privacy Policy | Terms of Use

feedback