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Increase beverage servers’ legal liability

Description of Strategy

Beverage servers’ legal liability can be increased through implementation of dram shop liability laws. Dram shop liability laws establish a drinking establishment’s potential financial liability for serving alcohol to an intoxicated or underage person who later causes injury to a third party. Examples of such harms may include death, injury, or other damages as a result of an alcohol-related car crash. These laws may apply to the owner of the establishment or the individual server. Some states impose restrictions on dram shop liability by capping the amount of compensation allowed in suits, by increasing the evidence required to demonstrate responsibility, or by imposing statutes of limitations (Guide to Community Preventive Services, 2010).

Wyoming has a limited liability state law. The law states that no person who has legally provided alcohol to any other person is liable for damages caused by the intoxication of the other person (Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 12-8-301, 2017). However, licensees and their employees can be held liable for damages if they serve a minor who is not a family member.

Also known as...

Dram shop liability

Discussion of Effectiveness


Evidence generally supports increasing beverage servers’ legal liability for preventing and reducing alcohol-related harms (Guide to Community Preventive Services, 2010). One study noted that increasing liability was related to lowered self-reported probability of heavy episodic drinking and drunk driving among all drinkers but did not reduce the probability of self-reported, heavy episodic drinking and drinking and driving among heavy drinkers (Stout, Sloan, Liang, & Davies, 2000). The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (2014) found evidence that dram shop liability laws reduce alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities, alcohol-related violence, alcohol-related disease, overall motor vehicle fatalities, and homicide. Based upon these findings they assigned a “scientifically supported” evidence rating to dram shop liability laws.


Strategy Description

Guide to Community Preventive Services. (2010). Preventing excessive alcohol consumption: Dram shop liability. Retrieved July 24, 2012

Wyoming Statute Annotated § 12-8-301 (2017). Retrieved October 9, 2017

Evidence Base

Guide to Community Preventive Services. (2010). Preventing excessive alcohol consumption: Dram shop liability.

Rammohan, V., Hahn, R. A., Elder, R., Brewer, R., Fielding, J., Naimi, T. S., … Zometa, C. (2011). Effects of dram shop liability and enhanced over service law enforcement initiatives on excessive alcohol consumption and related harms: Two Community Guide systematic reviews. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 41(3), 334–343. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2011.06.027

Stout, E. M., Sloan, F. A., Liang, L., & Davies, H. H. (2000). Reducing harmful alcohol-related behaviors: Effective regulatory methods. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 61(3), 402.

Wagenaar, A. C., & Holder, H. D. (1991). Effects of alcoholic beverage server liability on traffic crash injuries. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 15(6), 942–947. doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.1991.tb05194.x

University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (2017). Sales to intoxicated persons. Retrieved October 16, 2017

Futher Reading

Holder, H. D., Janes, K., Mosher, J., Saltz, R., Spurr, S., & Wagenaar, A. C. (1993). Alcoholic beverage server liability and the reduction of alcohol-involved problems. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 54(1), 23–36.