Lurking Dangers For Florida Bars and Restaurants

Florida Bar and Restaurant’s that serve alcohol BEWARE, there are dangers lurking in a legal mine field which owners often ignore. Those dangers are the liabilities historically referred to as “Dram Shop Actions” in tort law. Florida both being a conservative and a tourism dependent state , have caused our legislators to make these suits very difficult …but not impossible. To bring such an action a plaintiff, all too often a surviving family member, must prove that the bar or restaurant employees violated

F.S. §768.125. That is to say, that the bar is liable for the damages caused by the serving of alcohol to someone they know (or should know) is habitually addicted to alcohol or drugs. In such cases the damages can be horrific with devastating financial effects to the bar or restaurant as well as the to injured parties or their survivors.  As any business with more than five (5) employees should have an employee handbook, it only makes sense for bars and restaurants which serve alcohol to include in their handbook the provisions of F.S. §768.125. How one determines if a customer is an “addict” as opposed to a mere “abuser” is difficult so the handbook should probably include provisions from the pages of the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM‐V). That  is what psychologists use in their diagnoses. Of equal importance in my opinion would be sufficient training sessions on addiction determination for all employees. And, as knowledge of employees is deemed knowledge of the employer, there should be a plan for the various shifts sharing information about those patrons suspected as addicts. The final aspect of the employee handbook on this should express a commitment by all employees to preserve the necessary shared communications regarding suspected addicted patrons as protected confidential information.  For those who commercially serve alcohol, an “once of prevention” will “serve” them well.


David L. Hirsch  is an attorney licensed to practice law for four decades, now in Florida, Georgia and Alabama and is a founding member and president of Brawer Hirsch and Associates, PA.  ( personal injury, civil litigation and family law) with offices in Boca Raton, Boynton Beach ( 562-440 4646) and Ft. Lauderdale FL ( 954 522-1922).  You can find him on the web at or contact him at 855 544 LAWS (5297) or reach him with questions at