In Part 3, I discussed Dram Shop claims against bars, restaurants and package stores. In this part, I will explain that while this law attempts to protect those injured and killed as a result of bars, restaurants, and package stores’ attempts to sell alcohol contrary to the provisions of law and make more money, it has little teeth.
In order to obtain a license to sell liquor in Alabama, you must provide the Alcohol and Beverage Control Board proof that you have insurance of $100,000 or assets in that amount. Is $100,000 enough to cover someone who is seriously injured or killed as a result of a bar serving a minor or obviously intoxicated individual? I would suggest to you that it is not.
In addition, many of the policies which cover such establishments are diminishing policies. That means that the attorney fees are subtracted from the face amount of the policy. Consequently, if a claim is made and the bar hires an attorney to defend it (actually, the insurance company hires the attorney for the bar), the fees paid to the attorney to defend the case are subtracted from the policy’s face amount. For example, if the attorney fees are $25,000 and the verdict is $100,000, the plaintiff will only recover $75,000 unless the bar can afford to pay the difference. Many times, these bars go out of business before a verdict is ever rendered. In addition, the defense attorneys have an incentive to bill the case because it gives them negotiating power against the injured individual – "you better settle now for $50,000 because it will cost us $75,000 to defend the case".
These laws need to be changed. If you want to take part in such a change, contact your legislators and tell them how you feel. That is the way to affect change.