Legislative Positions



Dram Shop legislation creates third party liability for reckless or intentional serving of an intoxicated person if that person would later injure an innocent party. Delaware courts could examine and make civilly liable restaurant owners and employees for property damage, personal injury or death sustained by a third party as a result of the purchaser’s intoxication.

Dram Shop Talking Points

  • Dram shop laws originated in the mid-1800’s to protect and provide compensation for wives and children of habitual drunkards.
  • Most dram shop laws were repealed with the end of prohibition.
  • In the 1960’s and 1970’s, courts in many states began holding bars and restaurants liable for damages caused to innocent third parties by intoxicated adults and minors.
  • Legislatures followed suit with formal dram shop laws.
  • In the past 10 years, the trend has been to limit liability while increasing laws addressing .08, more stringent drunk driving laws and underage drinking laws.
  • Industry, non-profits and law enforcement have been successful by working together to reduce drunk driving fatalities.

Understand the Facts about Dram Shop

  • This law would target responsible business owners who would be considered guilty, until proven innocent.
  • The burden of proof would fall directly on the business owner.
  • Liquor liability costs would skyrocket, making it cost-prohibitive for small businesses.
  • Dram shop legislation creates a “feeding frenzy” for trial attorneys paving the way for frivolous lawsuit abuse.
  • The financial consequences of defending a liability lawsuit would be devastating to a mom- and-pop restaurant.

Drunk Driving Facts in Delaware

  • According to Forbes Magazine, the top 4 out of 5 worst states for drunken driving fatalities all have dram shop liability laws.
  • According to MADD and NHTSA spokespeople, “high visibility enforcement and sobriety checkpoints” along with “Interlock ignition” laws make the difference in drunk driving fatality statistics.
  • The Delaware Restaurant Association supports mandated server-training at a minimum for Delaware operators.
  • The Delaware Restaurant Association supports more stringent open container laws and first-time offender laws.
  • Currently, it is legal to drink as a passenger in an automobile.
  • Delaware has one of the country’s most stringent server-training laws requiring every handler of alcohol to undergo mandated server-training.
  • Drunk driving fatalities have steadily decreased in Delaware since 1985 when 71% of all traffic fatalities were alcohol related.
  • In 2009, 4 fatalities were attributed to alcohol. By comparison, 16 of the 31 deaths were attributed to non-use of seat belts.
  • The average policy in Delaware is $250 (for $1 million coverage policy) and could exceed over $10,000 for the same coverage depending on the business. Many may not be able to secure coverage in Delaware.