South Carolina Alcohol Liability and Dram Shop Laws

What are the Alcohol Liability and Dram Shop Laws in South Carolina?

The alcohol liability and dram shop laws in South Carolina can protect victims of alcohol related injury or death.  Alcohol has proven to be a lead factor in the cause of injuries and deaths on the highways of South Carolina.  South Carolina currently ranks 2nd for the most DUI fatalities per capita in the United States.  In recovering for our clients, we do not stop with the drunk driver.  We pursue those that cause and enable the drunk driver.

The Goings Law Firm regularly sues restaurants and bar owners, social clubs, and individuals in cases arising from accidents involving the service of alcohol to intoxicated persons and minors.  Dram Shop laws are intended to prevent restaurants, bars, and clubs from serving alcohol to minors and serving alcohol to intoxicated persons. If a restaurant, bar, or club violates such Dram Shop laws and someone is injured as a result, the establishment can be held responsible for the injuries. Our attorneys are well versed in these laws and experienced in representing both injured victims involving the sale and service of alcohol.

South Carolina has specific statutory and common law that governs the liability of restaurants, bars, social clubs and even individual people (social hosts) with respect to the service of alcohol under certain situations.  These laws govern what is known as dram shop liability, tavern owner liability, liquor liability and social host liability, and they may allow an injured party to hold a restaurant, bar, club, or individual responsible for injuries or death caused by the service of alcohol.

While South Carolina does not have a “Dram Shop Act,” it is illegal in South Carolina to “knowingly” serve alcohol to any person who is intoxicated. To pursue a Dram Shop action, the injured party must apply the criminal statutes governing alcohol control (S.C. Code Ann. § 61-4-580) and demonstrate that an establishment knowingly served alcohol to an intoxicated person. If the injured party can establish that a restaurant or a bar knew or should have known that it was serving an intoxicated person, whether by signs of visible intoxication or based upon the type, number and time period over which the customer consumed alcoholic drinks, that restaurant or bar is liable for the resulting injuries and damages proximately caused by the drunk driver. Additionally, if a restaurant or bar knew or should have known an alcohol purchaser is under 21 years of age, then that restaurant or bar could be liable if the purchaser’s intoxication caused an injury. Similarly, an adult social host who knowingly serves, or causes to be served, an alcoholic beverage to a person he knows or reasonably should know is between the ages of 18 and 20 is liable to the person served and to any other persons for damages proximately resulting from the host’s service of alcohol.

In a recent case, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld a $10 million verdict against The Getaway Lounge & Grill and its owners. See Hartfield v. The Getaway Lounge & Grill, Inc., 388 S.C. 407 (2010). The case involved a customer who spent a night visiting a number of bars, including The Getaway, before getting into a motor vehicle collision, which killed the customer and seriously injured the driver of the other vehicle. One of the owners of The Getaway testified that the customer did not appear intoxicated while he was there.  Fluid samples taken from the customer’s body indicated that his blood alcohol content (“BAC”) was .212. At trial, a forensic chemistry expert, using a method known as “retrograde extrapolation,” estimated that his BAC when he left The Getaway must have been between .18 and .20 and that, therefore, “he would have been grossly intoxicated and exhibiting symptoms of intoxication.” The Court stated that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to support the forensic chemist’s expert testimony. Notably, the Court also held that a customer need not be “visibly intoxicated” for the imposition of dram shop liability; rather, “knowledge” of intoxication may be acquired through different mediums. The complexities of the Getaway case demonstrate that it is critical to retain an attorney with experience and knowledge in the area of dram shop litigation.

Dram shop liability is a specialized area of law, both from a practical and a legal perspective.  Dram shop cases are often fact-intensive and require extensive resources and experts to prove the elements of the case.  Dram shop cases often turn on the issue of liability, making the timely collection and analysis of police reports, receipts, video, social media, and eye witness statements crucial.  Dram shop claims involve unique aspects of the law as well.  For example, South Carolina’s modified joint and several liability system does not apply to conduct involving the use, sale, or possession of alcohol.  This has significant consequences in multi-defendant litigation, resulting in the ability to collect 100% of the damages awarded from a restaurant or bar that is found just 1% liable.  Also, there is no cap on punitive damages under for negligence based on alcohol liability.  Thus, having an attorney experienced in dram shop litigation is crucial to both bringing and defending these claims.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a drunk driver and you believe a bar or restaurant may be responsible, call us today at 803-350-9230 or contact us online for a free consultation today,


South Carolina Ranks 3rd in Drunk Driving-Related Deaths

Dont-Drink-and-DriveSouth Carolina is the third deadliest state in the nation when it comes to drunk driving deaths, according to a study by 24-7 Wall Street. The study shows that nearly 360 people were killed by drunk drivers in the state in 2012. South Carolina also ranked 20th in the country for DUI arrests, at 17,906 in 2012.  Many of the intoxicated drivers were minors, with 2.8 underage deaths related to DUI accidents per 100,000.  This ratio makes South Carolina rank the 6th highest in minor related drunk driving fatalities.

Fortunately, there was a declined in the number of car accident related fatalities in South Carolina in 2013.  The South Carolina Department of Public Safety noted 229 fatal car accidents in 2013.  To date in 2014, there as been already 217 fatal auto accidents, and if this trend continues this year the number of fatal accident may exceed 2012. However, this year, the State of South Carolina recently enacted a law, called “Emma’s Law“, designed to toughen DUI punishment.  Emma’s Law establishes the use of an interlock device for convictions of certain DUI related offenses.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident with someone that was driving under the influence you may be entitled to significant compensation, including an award of punitive damages against the at-fault driver to help punish for the reckless nature of driving while intoxicated.  Contact the Car Accident Attorneys at the Goings Law Firm, LLC at (803) 350-9230 today to see if we can help you.


What Clients are saying

100 stars! Mr. Goings and his staff did an amazing job in handling my case! They were with me every step of the way and made sure my case was handled with my best interest at heart! The process could not have been any easier. I am forever grateful to Mr. Goings and his team. South Carolina’s best attorney!

- Tiffany AL

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- Jason D

After representing me after I fell down the stairs at work and injured my back, I would recommend the Goings Law Firm to handle any personal injury matter. Robert and Jessica made me feel like my case mattered to them and that my goals were their goals. They were tireless advocates for me yet they were also willing to be upfront and honest in their assessments of my options going forward. I never felt pressured to choose one course of action over the other. They treated my case like their own.

- Anonymous

Mr. Goings is an outstanding attorney. Dealing with a personal injury case can be frustrating and quite stressful. Mr. Goings and his office took care of my case with the upmost compassion and professionalism. They treated me like family. Mr. Goings is hard-working and determined to fight for his clients’ rights. I highly recommend him to anyone in need of a personal injury attorney.

- Anonymous

When I looked for an attorney for my bad car accident, I read the reviews for the Goings Law Firm. This firm had great reviews so I contacted them. Thankfully, Mr. Goings took my case and fully explained the process to me and he took the worry out of my mind. Before hiring him, I tried to settle my case with the insurance company on my own, but I was low balled- Mr. Goings and his office got me a lot more than I ever imagined. A big thanks to his office!

- Anonymous

The Goings Law Firm went above and beyond assisting me after a serious auto accident. Robert Goings and Katie Gould were thorough and kind explaining every step of the process to me, sometimes more than once. Robert was persistent and professional making sure that we received the highest allowable compensation from all parties. I could not have been more pleased with the overall outcome.

- Car Accident Client

It has been a great experience having you represent my family as Our Attorney. I have learned a lot, and have come to understand the importance of good counsel. You and your team are the best. You guys are officially our family Law Firm. Thanks Robert.

- Workers’ Comp Client

Words cannot adequately express my gratitude for Robert Goings, and his amazingly talented team at Goings Law Firm, LLC. Mr. Goings was always genuinely concerned about my health, and overall well-being, was instrumental in recommending the best medical treatment plan for my injury, and most importantly, he treated me as if I were family. Mr. Goings was extremely attentive to every detail regarding my case, and he executed professional results and recovery, well beyond my greatest expectation.

- Slip and Fall Client

Robert Goings was my lawyer when I was in a terrible car accident caused by a drunk driver. I would not be where I am today without Robert and his staff. He worked very hard for me and was with me from the beginning to the end. He stuck to his word and got me the compensation that I deserved. I really appreciate what Robert and his office has done for me.

- Personal Injury Client

Mr. Goings worked tirelessly to resolve my husband’s case, despite the fact my husband wasn’t always the best client, and we still ended up with the best possible outcome because, in my opinion, we had the best attorney. Robert Goings is a professional, caring, experienced attorney with an amazing paralegal, Katie, and a wonderful support staff. If you need legal representation, The Goings Law Firm is the only call you need to make.

- Personal Injury Client

Mr. Goings stood up for my Constitutional Rights. He is a not your typical lawyer and you can trust him like a friend. His staff is very friendly, accommodating, and helpful throughout the entire process.

- Anonymous

Mr. Goings welcomed me in as family, he kept in contact with me about my case all the way to the end.. He works very hard to get justice.. Him and his team is very polite and hard workers.. He deserve more then 5 stars if I had to do it all over again he would be the call.. If anyone is looking for a personal injury lawyer he would be the right person to call don’t hesitate to call.. I thank him and his staff so much for everything they have done for me.

- Personal Injury Client

Hands down one of the BEST attorneys in the state!! Robert Goings exceeded all of my expectations. He welcomed me and my daughter with open arms and he kept me informed every step of the way. I knew exactly what was going on in my case and I really like that about him. His entire staff was awesome and I would definitely recommend him to anyone looking for a personal injury attorney. I guarantee you, you will be very pleased with Mr. Goings. Honestly, he definitely deserves more than 5 stars!!

- Personal Injury Client

After being rear ended in a car accident, I needed help navigating the insurance settlement. Having never needed the services of an attorney, I was very anxious about the whole process. Robert Goings & his staff were excellent to work with; at no point did I question my decision or feel that we would achieve anything less than the best possible settlement. I would never hesitate to recommend him to family, friends or strangers!

- Car Accident Client

Goings Law Firm was very helpful and patient with me. Goings Law Firm educated me about the legal side of things and help me understand my case. I would recommend Goings Law Firm to anyone.

- Workers’ Comp Client

Mr. Goings was caring and professional during a very difficult time in my life. I was faced with the sudden loss of my mother in a car accident, and Robert took the time to talk to me and check up on me throughout the duration of the case. I applaud his sensitivity and willingness to go the extra mile. I would recommend his firm to anyone that wants the best legal representation in South Carolina!

- Personal Injury Client

Robert and his staff have gone above and beyond, they are absolutely amazing at what they do. I would definitely call his office again if the need should arise.

- Workers’ Comp Client

I highly recommend Robert Goings! He is absolutely incredible!!! I had suffered from a dog bite injury and Robert went above and beyond to have me taken care of. He is extremely personable, I never felt like a “client”. He and his staff treated me as well as my family with genuine kindness. I am blessed to have had him take such great care of me and my case.

- Dog Bite Client

He was very kind and knowledgeable. He gave me status updates in a timely matter. I was VERY pleased.

- Personal Injury Client