Michigan's Dram Shop Act: Liability For Furnishing Alcohol To A Visibly Intoxicated Person

Metro Detroit Personal Injury Lawyer

Michigan Dram Shop Act

The Michigan Liquor Control Code of 1998 (Dram Shop Act), provides a cause of action against a retail licensee who unlawfully serves alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person or minor, and which results in injury, death or property damage to an innocent third party.

To recover under the dram shop act, the plaintiff must show that the injury or death was caused by the unlawful selling, giving or furnishing of alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person or minor. MCL 436.1801(3). A person is visibly intoxicated when his or her intoxication is "apparent to an ordinary observer." Miller v Ochampaugh191 Mich App 48, 477 NW2d 105 (1991). Since furnishing alcohol to a person under the age of 21 is unlawful, a plaintiff injured by a minor is not required to show that the minor was served while visibly intoxicated. 

The dram shop act only permits recovery for innocent third parties. There is no remedy under the act for the intoxicated person if he or she suffers injury, or for anyone who contributed to the intoxication. Craig v Larson, 432 Mich 346, 439 NW2d 899 (1989).

Requirements for Michigan Dram Shop Actions 

The law requires that the plaintiff seeking to bring a dram shop action provide written notice to the retail licensee within 120 days of retaining an attorney, provided that sufficient facts are known to suggest a possible dram shop action. MCL 436.1801(4)Furthermore, the lawsuit must be filed within two years of the injury or death, and the allegedly intoxicated person or minor must be named as a defendant. Id. 

Social Host Liability 

If the defendant is not a licensed retailer, then the defendant is not liable under the dram shop act. In Michigan, a social host is not liable for furnishing alcohol to a visibly intoxicated adult guest. However, a social host can be held liable for personal injury or death when they knowingly furnish alcohol to a minor. Unlike the dram shop act, the intoxicated minor who suffers injuries can bring a claim against the social host. 

Metro Detroit Injury Lawyers is a Bloomfield Hills, Michigan law firm practicing personal injury law. Contact us today at 248-430-8929 for a free consultation and evaluation of your case, with no obligation.