Prohibition and Modern-Day Limits on Selling Alcohol


Earlier this week, on January 26, 1838, Tennessee was the first state in the nation to pass a Prohibition law.  The law made it a misdemeanor to sell alcoholic beverages.  Interestingly, the penalty for doing so was left completely to the discretion of the court.  Whatever fine the court did impose was to be used for the support of public schools.  Prohibition officially ended in 1933 but there are still plenty of laws related to the sale and consumption of alcohol in the State of Tennessee including laws creating liability for bars, restaurants and clubs that over-serve patrons who then get into accidents or otherwise harm others.  Read on for more on this type of prohibition.

In Tennessee, a business such as a bar, club or restaurant that serves an “obviously intoxicated” person can be held financially responsible for harm caused by the intoxicated person whether it be a bar fight or a drunk driving accident.  This law is important for a number of reasons.

According to the New York Times, up to 50% of a restaurants revenues are derived from alcohol sales.  Unfortunately, for some, this causes them to turn a blind eye to someone who is drinking in excess.  So liquor liability or dramshop laws, the laws that can make a business financially responsible if they serve an “obviously intoxicated” person, can act as a counter-balance to this financial incentive to over-serve.

Another reason liquor liability laws are important is that all too often the drunk driver or person engaging in a bar brawl has a problem that typically impacts their financial condition.  Let me explain, a drunk driving conviction will cause car insurance rates to skyrocket.  Many people simply cannot afford it post-conviction.  Likewise, people with untreated addictions generally have employment issue and tend to have fewer assets as a result of their addictions.  Nonetheless, 50 to 75% of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license.  That means, assuming the drunk driving conviction was not an isolated mistake, convicted drunk drivers continue to drive and to drive drunk.  They are just doing it on a suspended license and without insurance or the financial means to compensate someone for the harm they caused.  If the “obviously intoxicated” person was served at a bar, restaurant, theater, club or other establishment, the insurance policy for that business may be the only means to compensate for the injuries caused.

But perhaps the best and simplest way to financially protect yourself from a drunk driver is to purchase underinsured/uninsured motorist (UIM/UM) coverage.  While the name makes many people think that they are buying coverage to help a person who has no coverage in the event they are in an accident, the exact opposite is true.  If you purchase this type of insurance, it protects YOU in the event you are injured by someone without any insurance or without enough insurance to fully compensate you for your injuries.  This coverage is typically inexpensive especially when you consider the risk – 1 in 5 drivers in the State of Tennessee are uninsured.  And, hordes of drivers in the State only have the minimum limits required by law, an amount that is insufficient to cover an ambulance ride and one night’s stay in the hospital.

At the Law Offices of John Day, our award-winning lawyers are experienced in drunk driving cases, and we would be privileged to help you too.  We handle all accident cases on a contingency-basis so we only get paid if we recover money for you.  Give us a call to see if you have a case:

Nashville: 615-669-3993

Murfreesboro: 615-867-9900

Brentwood: 615-742-4880

Toll-Free: 866-812-8787

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