Innovation or Litigation? Beer Table Taps Could Present Novel Dram Shop Questions

tn_24-08-07_31a.jpg One of my students spotted the video below on a restaurant that is placing open beer taps at tables. The idea presents not just novel possibilities for parties but also lawsuits.

There are 47 states with variations of dram shop laws, but there language differs greatly. Under dram shop laws, a bar is liable for “over-serving” customers. For example, New York’s dram shop law reads in part :

Any person who shall be injured in person, property, means of support, or otherwise by any intoxicated person, or by reason of the intoxication of any person, whether resulting in his death or not, shall have a right of action against any person who shall, by unlawful selling to or unlawfully assisting in procuring liquor for such intoxicated person, have caused or contributed to such intoxication.

Bars are routinely sued for over-serving of customers and many states treat serving of minors as a strict liability offense. Notably, in a recent New Jersey decision, a bar was held responsible for the intoxicated state of a minor who was given spiked drinks by friends at the bar –despite the fact that he had ordered a soda. For the opinion, click here. The court ruled that the minor showed unmistakable signs of intoxication and fell under the negligence standard of the law.

The fact that anyone can serve themselves at these tables raises an increased likelihood that over-consumption will occur or minors will get access to the alcohol. This will require some added showing on the part of the bar that they kept close supervision on who was in the bar and whether there was evidence of obvious intoxication (leading to the tap being cut off).

For the video, click here.

5 thoughts on “Innovation or Litigation? Beer Table Taps Could Present Novel Dram Shop Questions”

  1. After further research on this product, I actually believe that the monitoring system keeps track of individual consumption levels with a greater degree of accuracy. It would be hard pressed for a bar tender or server to know exactly how much they have served. However, with this system, the client cannot only be shut off at any time but it requires efficient regulation of beer consumption. Table Tap is likely aware of these concerns and has recently lessened the limit amount on a per patron basis.

  2. Agreed, Mespo, stupidity definitely is spelled that way for the morons who thought this was a “good” idea.

  3. Susan:

    Stupidity usually is spelled with a dollar sign as the first letter.

  4. The phrase “what ‘genius’ thought of THAT?” comes to my mind on the practice of placing open beer taps at individual tables. To me, it’s a recipe for more trouble in the forms of lawsuits, as JT pointed out, or even worse, possible fatalities and severe injuries in bad car accidents. Why ANY bar or restaurant would want to leave themselves open for future legal problems is beyond me.

  5. JT:

    I often wondered about dram shop liability when bars serve “buckets of beer” in which a group of bottles is brought to the table in an ice bucket with no control over who drinks what and how much. The same applies for large pitchers of beer routinely served at pizza restaurants. Alas for me it’s all esoteric for me since Virginia has no dram shop liability, even if you decide to serve minors. Aren’t we just the enlightened red state?

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