Dram Shop and Social Host Liability for Car Accidents in South Carolina

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Every state has somewhat different rules governing liability arising out of drunk driving accidents. In South Carolina, if there is an accident caused by a drunk driver which injures another driver, the law allows the injured driver to file a personal injury claim in civil court against the drunk driver. There may also be a claim the victim can bring against a bar, tavern, or liquor store that provided the driver with the alcohol. This is called “dram shop” liability. There are also laws known as “social host liability” laws, under which a victim can sue the host of a party or a person who otherwise provides alcohol to a minor if the intoxicated person caused an injury to another person.

Dram Shop Liability

South Carolina does recognize and allow dram shop claims, even though there is no specific statute for dram shop liability. It is South Carolina case law that allows for dram shop claims, and the courts have a long history of acknowledging them.

The leading case on dram shop liability, Jamison v. The Pantry, Inc., held that it was reasonably foreseeable for a 19-year old driver, who had purchased a case of beer from a liquor store in contravention of the law, would drink at least some of the beer, become intoxicated, drive a car, and then get in an accident and possibly kill someone.   

The court allowed the underage driver, Jamison, and the passenger, who was also injured, to bring claims against The Pantry, who sold Jamison the beer, as the accident was foreseeable.  The court held that The Pantry could be held liable for the injuries suffered by the driver and the other passengers.

Selling alcohol to a minor is not enough by itself to support a dram shop liability claim if the driver then injures someone else; the driver who caused the accident must be intoxicated by the alcohol that was sold at the time the accident occurred. Subsequent South Carolina case law has established that if a bar serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated guest, they can be held liable if the patron then drives and injures somebody else.

Social Host Liability

Many states will hold social hosts liable if they provide alcohol to a guest who then drives and injures someone else. South Carolina is one of those states, and will hold a social host liable if the guest was a minor under age 21. South Carolina does not allow social host liability claims if the guest who then caused the drunk driving accident is over the age of 21.  If the guest was under 21, however, there is not just civil liability, but also the potential for criminal penalties in situations where the alcohol is served to a minor in a rented hotel room or similar accommodation.

Call the David Aylor Law Offices

If you were injured by a drunk driver who is under the age of majority, or a drunk driver who was over-served in a public establishment, you may be able to recover your damages against the owner of the establishment or the giver of the party where the driver became intoxicated.  No matter what, if you have been injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, you need an experienced car accident attorney, who will seek recovery from every possible resource on your behalf.  Please call or email the David Aylor Law Offices today for a free, no obligation consultation.