What is the Indiana Dram Shop Statute? 

October 17, 2022

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

What is the Indiana Dram Shop Statute? 

Back in the 1800s, bars and taverns were referred to as dram shops. This was because, at that time, spirits were sold to patrons by the dram, a British unit of measure equivalent to 25ml (about 0.85 oz)-35ml (about 1.18 oz). Today, in the United States, bars and taverns serve liquor by the shot, a measurement that is equivalent to 44ml (about 1.49 oz). However, there are still many state laws named after the dram shops of the 1800s. One of these laws is the Indiana Dram Shop Statute, which can be found in Indiana Code 7.1-5-10-15.5. The law establishes when a person or establishment can be held liable for the harmful acts of its intoxicated customers.  

If you or a loved one has been injured by an intoxicated individual, you may want to speak with an Indiana personal injury attorney about which parties can and should be held liable for your injuries or the wrongful death of a loved one. The Indiana Injury Lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP have expert investigatory skills, a strong attention to detail, and vast litigation and courtroom experience. We have fought on behalf of injury victims and won time and again, even in the most serious cases involving traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, or wrongful death. We stand ready to advocate for you and if needed, take your case right to a judge and jury. Call us today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.  

The Indiana Dram Shop Statute  

The Indiana Dram Shop Statute, as outlined in Indiana Code 7.1-5-10-15.5, states that “a person who furnishes (barters, delivers, sells, exchanges, provides, or gives away) an alcoholic beverage to a person is not liable in a civil action for damages caused by the impairment or intoxication of the person who was furnished the alcoholic beverage unless:  

  1. The person furnishing the alcoholic beverage had actual knowledge that the person to whom the alcoholic beverage was furnished was visibly intoxicated at the time the alcoholic beverage was furnished; and  
  2. The intoxication of the person to whom the alcoholic beverage was furnished was a proximate cause of the death, injury, or damage alleged in the complaint.  

The Indiana dram shop statute goes on to state that, “if a person who is at least twenty-one years of age suffers injury or death caused by the person’s voluntary intoxication, the person; person’s dependents; person’s personal representative; or person’s heirs; may not assert a claim for damages for personal injury or death against a person who furnished an alcoholic beverage that contributed to the person’s intoxication, unless subsections 1 and 2 (above) apply.  

Example in a Civil Liability Case  

On a Friday evening, after a long week of work, Leo decides to visit his favorite bar, a place that the locals simply call, “Roadhouse.” He walks in, orders a drink from the bartender, Jacques, and starts talking to some other regulars. After a couple of drinks, Jacques and others start to notice that Leo is slurring his speech. Then, when he stands up from his stool, he nearly falls over before stumbling towards the bathroom. When Leo returns to his seat, he taps the bar and asks Jacques to pour him one more double, which he proceeds to do. Eventually, Leo leaves Roadhouse, gets into his truck and begins to drive home. However, on his way, he ran a red light and T-boned another car. Laura, who was driving the car that Leo hit, suffered several broken bones, as well as a serious spinal cord injury.  

After some consideration, Laura hires an Indiana drunk driving accident attorney from Indiana Injury Lawyers and decides to bring an Indiana personal injury claim against Leo directly. Her attorney also did some investigating and found that there were several witnesses at the Roadhouse that evening who could attest to the fact that Leo was visibly drunk and continued to be served alcohol by Jacques. Given this information, Laura decides to also bring a dram shop claim against the Roadhouse, because Jacques acted in negligence when he continued to serve Leo alcohol, after noting that Leo was clearly, visibly intoxicated.  

The Dram Shop Statute and Social Hosts 

One interesting element about the Indiana Dram Shop Statute is that the law makes no distinction, regarding third-party liability, between licensed alcohol vendors and social hosts. This means that, in Indiana, a person serving alcohol at a party or in their home can be held liable for damages in the same manner as a bartender at a licensed establishment. However, once again, for the Indiana Dram Shop statute to apply, the host must have furnished alcohol to a person that they clearly knew was intoxicated and who proceeded to cause harm to another person because of their intoxication.  

Example of the Dram Shop Statute in a Civil Liability Case 

To celebrate the company’s recent success, Lisa decided to throw a backyard barbecue at her home and invite all of her colleagues. The party carried on throughout the evening, and by 11 pm, her co-worker Geoff was clearly and visibly drunk. He was stumbling around the yard, slumping over in his chair, and slurring his speech. However, the night was winding down and he asked Lisa if he could have just one more beer. She complied, reached into the cooler, and handed him his last beer of the evening. Geoff decides to leave the party without saying goodbye and heads to his car parked in front of the house. Their other co-worker, Mark, notices Geoff start his car and tries to stop him. Geoff, however, does not notice Mark approaching his car and steps on the gas. He runs over Geoff’s foot, breaking it completely.

After consulting with his attorney, Mark decides to bring an Indiana personal injury claim against Geoff directly. Mark’s Indiana personal injury lawyer also stated that he could likely make a dram shop claim against his other co-worker, Laura, as well, given her liability as a social host.

Time Limits on the Indiana Dram Shop Statute  

Like all other Indiana personal injury claims, Indiana Code § 34-11-2-4 states that plaintiffs have two years following their injury to file a dram shop claim. This is known as the statute of limitations. Generally, the clock starts on the date the accident occurred. If you fail to file your claim within two years of the accident date, except in very rare circumstances, you forfeit your right to have your case heard in court or to recover damages. 

Filing any personal injury claim can be challenging, let alone a dram shop claim. After you have sustained an injury, you’ll need to submit an insurance claim to both your insurance and the insurance company of those responsible for your injury. It is best to do that as soon as possible, and ideally with assistance from an experienced personal injury lawyer. If you need help gathering evidence, communicating with the insurance companies, or simply understanding the process of filing a personal injury claim in Indiana, feel free to contact the Indiana Injury Lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Our personal injury team has successfully proven some of the most challenging, serious personal injury cases, and stands ready to begin working towards getting you the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.  

Compensation Available Under Dram Shop Laws

When seeking damages in a personal claim related to the Dram Shop statute, individuals may seek economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. However, it is important to note Indiana law limits the amount of damages you may recover. The most common limitation to damages in Indiana is applied using comparative fault. Per Indiana Code 34-51-2-5, fault for the accident may be placed on the plaintiff and their recovery may be reduced in proportion to their fault. However, if the plaintiff’s fault is determined to be 51% or higher, they are barred from recovering any damages. In addition to the limitations set forth by comparative fault, damages may also be limited in Indiana when the claim involves the wrongful death of an unmarried adult, age 23 or older, without dependents. In situations like this, the plaintiff may only recover up to $300,000 in damages.  

 

Indiana Comparative Fault

 

Need Help Understanding Indiana Dram Shop Laws? 

If you need help understanding the Indiana Dram Shop statute and how it may apply to a personal injury that you’ve sustained because of someone else’s negligence, call the Indianapolis Injury Lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Our team has a thorough understanding of Indiana personal injury law, and how it may apply to the specific circumstances of your case. We can help you gather evidence, build the best argument possible, and, maximize your compensation. Don’t wait to begin working on your claim, call us today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule your free consultation. 

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