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NY Dram Shop Act: An Update

February 4, 2021

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In<em> <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Heins-v.-Vanbourgondien.pdf">Heins v. Vanbourgondien</a>,</em> the minor plaintiff and her father brought a personal injury suit against several defendants as result of a motor vehicle accident on a Suffolk County road. This article focuses on the Court’s decision on the minor plaintiffs’ Dram Shop claim against two  7-11 stores.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The 17-year-old plaintiff Abigail Heins was operating a vehicle owned by one of the co-defendants, after consuming alcohol with the vehicle’s three other passengers. A disagreement arose between vehicle’s occupants causing Ms. Heins to become distracted and causing her to swerve into the road’s median. The vehicle rolled over before coming to a stop in the median.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">GOL §11-101(1), known as New York’s Dram Shop Act (hereinafter “Act”) states in pertinent part and parcel that:</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">“any person who shall be injured in person, property, means of support, or otherwise by any intoxicated person, or by reason of the intoxicated person […] shall have a right of action against any person who by unlawful selling or unlawfully assisting in procuring liquor for such intoxicated person, have caused or contributed to such intoxication.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In 1983, the Act was supplemented with GOL §11-100, to apply to “any provider unlawfully furnishing alcoholic beverages for minors.” However, liability under this portion of the Act can only be imposed on an individual “who knowingly causes intoxication by furnishing alcohol to (or assisting in the procurement of alcohol for) persons known or reasonably believed to be underage.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Plaintiff Abigail Heins drove to two separate 7-11s with her friend and defendant Kimberly Vanbourgondien, 19 years old, and provided the cash for Ms. Vanbourgondien to purchase the alcohol Ms. Heins consumed.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The <em>Heins</em> Court held that a plaintiff may generally recover for damage if they establish a “reasonable or practical connection between an illegal sale of alcohol and the plaintiff’s injuries.” Id at 1019, citing <em>Flynn v. Bulldogs Run Corp.</em>, 171 A.D.3d 1136, 1137, 100 N.Y.S.3d 35; <em>Giordano v. Zepp,</em> 163 A.D.3d 781, 782, 79 N.Y.S.3d 659; <em>Covert v. Wisla Corp.</em>, 130 A.D.3d 966, 967, 14 N.Y.S.3d 455; <em>Tavarez v. Sidetracks</em>, LLC, 128 A.D.3d 806, 807, 9 N.Y.S.3d 368). However, the Court further held that the Dram Shop Act does not provide for a plaintiff who was injured as a result of their own intoxicated condition, and youth does not constitute an exception to the voluntary intoxication rule. The Court ultimately affirmed Summary Judgment in favor of the two 7-11 defendants.</p>
Thanks to Marysa Linares for her contribution to this post. Please contact <a href="mailto:Haquino@wcmlaw.com">Heather Aquino</a> with any questions.

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