In the United States, there are a lot of laws regarding the purchase, sale and consumption of alcohol, and those laws can vary from state to state. Both federal and state law require, however, that a person must be 21 years old or older before he or she can drink alcoholic beverages. There’s another law governing underage drinking in Tennessee. We call it a “dram shop” law, or social host liability.
The exact wording or nature of dram shop Laws may differ among the states; however, in Tennessee, the law allows an injury victim to seek damages from the seller/furnisher of alcohol under very specific circumstances. You can purse compensation if the vendor:
“(1) Sold the alcoholic beverage or beer to a person known to be under the age of twenty-one (21) years and such person caused the personal injury or death as the direct result of the consumption of the alcoholic beverage or beer so sold; or
(2) Sold the alcoholic beverage or beer to a visibly intoxicated person and such person caused the personal injury or death as the direct result of the consumption of the alcoholic beverage or beer so sold.”
Thus, the injured person can bring a claim against the seller if:
- The seller sold the beverage to a drunk person
- The purchaser was younger than 21 years old (the legal drinking age) and/or clearly drunk
- The injured person’s injuries resulted directly from the sale
The law also requires a jury to identify whether all the conditions are met beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the person, whose actions caused the injured person’s injuries, cannot bring a claim against the seller.
What happens to parents or bartenders if they let someone younger than 21 get drunk?
Parents or bartenders who let a person younger than 21 get drunk face a variety of consequences. They could face a civil liability suit in other states, but not in Tennessee; Tennessee law has no civil component of its statute or a civil equivalent to its criminal liability statute. However, parents and bartenders could be required to pay damages to the victim and could face criminal charges and penalties from the government. They also could face societal backlash, as underage drinking usually is frowned upon.
America is a free country, but intoxicated driving, related actions, and underage drinking are illegal and lead to a variety of consequences, both criminal and civil.
If you are injured due to the actions of a drunk person, you may qualify for legal compensation. If you are facing criminal liability for selling an alcoholic beverage to a person younger than 21, there may be a way to minimalize the consequences. For more information, contact the Knoxville attorneys at Banks & Jones, or call 865-546-2141. Let us Fight 2 Win for you!
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T. Scott knows the importance of interacting with colleagues to stay abreast of developments and changes in the legal world. T. Scott frequently teaches CLE courses on trial strategy, teaching other lawyers his methods for success in the courtroom, and is certified as a Rule 31 Mediator in the Tennessee Supreme Court. He is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association, the Tennessee Bar Association, the National Trial Lawyers, and both the Tennessee and American Associations for Justice.
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