NC Dram Shop Law Adults

In North Carolina, NCGS section 18B-120 and the subsequent sections address injury by drunk drivers that are under the age of twenty-one. The following sections address drunk driving by adults:

§ 18B-305. Other prohibited sales

(a) Sale to Intoxicated Person. — It shall be unlawful for a permittee or his employee or for an ABC store employee to knowingly sell or give alcoholic beverages to any person who is intoxicated.

A violation of this section constitutes negligence per se, which means if you are able to prove knowledge and legal intoxication then the bar is liable. Clark v. Inn W., 89 N.C. App. 275, 365 S.E.2d 682, rev’d on other grounds, 324 N.C. 415, 379 S.E.2d 23 (1989). Even though the statute states “knowingly”, the plaintiff must only allege and prove (1) that the patron was intoxicated and (2) that the licensee or permittee knew or should have known [emphasis added] that the patron was in an intoxicated condition at the time he or she was served. Harshbarger v. Murphy, 90 N.C. App. 393, 368 S.E.2d 450 (1988).

It is important to recognize that these Dram Shop laws establish a cause of action against the bars and seller of alcohol and not the drunk driver: Because N.C.G.S. § 18B-121 creates a cause of action against the permittee or a local ABC Board only, the theory by which the liability of the negligent driver is determined must arise from some other context, be it common law negligence, the Wrongful Death Act, or otherwise. As we have discussed, the pleadings in the present case do not allege such an alternate theory of liability. Because we have held that Defendants erroneously contended that N.C.G.S. § 18B-124 creates liability on the part of Ms. Lutz’s Estate, the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Ms. Lutz’s Estate.

Green v. Fishing Piers, Inc., 714 S.E.2d 510, 514 (N.C. Ct. App. 2011)

To summarize, NCGS 18B-120 is the Dram Shop law for underaged drunk drivers and NCGS 18B-305 deals with adult drivers. These are claims against the bars only. Attorneys will need to claim general negligence and wrongful death against the drunk driver.