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Dram Shop Liability Definition Dram shop liability is grounded in the common law theory of negligence Although imposes criminal dram shop liability no such comparable statute exists for purposes of establishing civil liability Thus recovery by third parties is only available by establishing the elements of a common law negligence claim ie duty of care breach of the duty of care and damages causally relate to the breach Nonetheless a violation of a criminal statute does constitute some evidence of a Defendants negligence Two sections of MGL c 138 are pertinent in this respect which prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages to persons under the statutory minimum age and which prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages to intoxicated persons Therefore a Defendants conduct which is violative of these statutory prohibitions is indicative of a breach of duty and may give rise to civil liability Persons to Whom a Duty is Owed The Intoxicated Patron The statutory duty not to sell or deliver alcoholic beverages to intoxicated persons applies to and is intended to protect among others the intoxicated patron However an intoxicated person may recover against a licensed vendor of alcoholic beverages for personal injuries property damage or consequential damages arising out of the service of alcohol only if the proprietor acted in a willful wanton or reckless manner in serving the patron alcohol Third Persons The statute is also intended to protect members of the general public Accordingly a tavern keeper who sells alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated patron may be held civilly liable to a third party who is injured by the intoxicated person Initially courts were hesitant to extend liability to a tavern keeper for all injuries which might result from a violation of MGL c 138 Thus early cases focused on whether the intoxicated patrons action was a reasonably foreseeable consequence
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