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What Are the Dram Shop Laws In Colorado?

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP June 2, 2023

Dram Shop Laws refer to the legal provisions that hold an establishment, such as a bar, restaurant, or liquor store, or social host, liable for serving alcohol to an individual who is either already intoxicated or a minor. These laws provide both criminal penalties for such acts as well as a mechanism to seek compensation from the establishment that served the alcohol. 

By holding establishments and social hosts responsible for serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated individuals or minors, dram shop laws aim to incentivize establishments and social hosts to serve alcohol responsibly.  

Proving a Claim Under the Colorado Dram Shop Act

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When it comes to recovering civil damages under Colorado Dram Shop laws, there are certain criteria that must be met before any financial compensation can be recovered from an establishment. 

First, the injury must have been caused by someone who was served or sold alcohol while on the premises of the liable party. Second, it must be shown that the person they served alcohol to was either a minor or was already visibly intoxicated. If these elements can be proven, the injured party could be entitled to recover compensation from the establishment or social that served the alcohol.  These same factors may contribute to misdemeanor criminal charges under the Dram Shop Act.

Social Host Liability 

In Colorado, the Dram Shop Act also governs civil and criminal liability for social hosts.  A social host can be held liable for damages caused by a person who was served while intoxicated or underaged at the social host’s home.

To prevail on a liquor violation claim against a social host based on a defendant being underage, it also must be proven that the host had knowledge of the individual’s age. If that can be proven, the social host can be held liable for civil damages or injuries resulting from alcohol consumption by an underage individual. The social host can also be charged criminally.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for filing a civil dram shop lawsuit in Colorado is one year from the date of the service or sale of alcohol, so it’s important that victims act quickly. 

It’s also important to note that these cases are incredibly complex and require legal expertise because the plaintiff must prove both liability on the part of the establishment as well as damages.

Damages Available Under Dram Shop Laws 

Injured parties have the right to pursue both economic and non-economic damages under Colorado’s dram shop laws. Economic damages refer to those losses that have an easily calculable dollar value such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. 

Non-economic damages are those that cannot be calculated by a dollar amount such as emotional distress and pain and suffering. Generally speaking, economic damages are easier to prove than non-economic damages; however, both types can be pursued in a dram shop lawsuit.

Civil damages under the Dram Shop Act are capped by statute.

Why Hire Dolan + Zimmerman LLP

If you’re looking for an experienced Boulder criminal defense lawyer who is committed to understanding your legal needs, look no further. We believe in empowering our clients to make informed choices and strive to provide the best quality service. Here’s why you should work with us:

Our Experience & Expertise 

Our firm is recognized in Boulder and across Colorado for our unwavering representation of clients. Our Boulder DUI defense lawyers consistently achieve superior results compared to other lawyers through settlements or trials, thanks to our unique approach to understanding and handling each case.

Our extensive experience in jury trials, bench trials, and contested hearings, both in criminal and civil cases, sets us apart and allows us to deliver exceptional results.

Personalized Attention 

We strive to provide personalized attention to each client by taking the time to listen carefully to what you need. Every case is different which means every strategy must be tailored accordingly – no cookie-cutter solutions here.If you need help with a legal matter, contact us today to schedule a consultation.