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Nathan Hughey – South Carolina Lawyer

South Carolina imposes a strict standard on bars regarding liability for alcohol service. Those injured by a person who left a bar intoxicated may recover against the bar.

South Carolina liquor liability is based on statutory duties imposed on establishments licensed to sell alcoholic beverages that prohibit them from serving patrons to the point of intoxication or intoxicated persons.  The purpose of these statutes is to promote public safety and to prevent persons from becoming intoxicated or already intoxicated persons from becoming even more intoxicated, and thus, an even greater risk to the public at large when he leaves the establishment.

Take, for example, a bar that serves an underage person who subsequently injures or kills another.  Statutes that bar may have violated include:

South Carolina Code Ann. §61-4-580, Prohibited Acts:

No holder of a permit authorizing the sale of beer or wine or a servant, agent, or employee of the permittee may knowingly[1] commit any of the following acts upon the licensed premises covered by the holder’s permit:

(1) sell beer or wine to a person under twenty-one years of age;

(2) sell beer or wine to an intoxicated persons.

S.C. Code Ann. § 61-4-50, Sales to Underage Persons:

It is unlawful for a person to sell beer, ale, porter, wine, or other similar malt or fermented beverage to a person under twenty-one years of age.

S.C. Code. Ann. § 61-6-2220, Sales to Intoxicated Persons:

A person or establishment licensed to sell alcoholic liquors or liquor by the drink pursuant to this article may not sell these beverages to persons in an intoxicated condition.

[1] See the South Carolina Supreme Courts broad definition of knowingly in Hartfield v. The Getaway Lounge and Grill, Inc., 388 S.C. 407, 697 S.E.2d 558 (2010) (discussed infra.).  South Carolina does not have a Dram Shop Act, and civil remedies for violations arise out of criminal statutes. See Tobias v. Sports Club, Inc., 332 S.C. 90, 92, 504 S.E.2d 318, 319 (1998).  Therefore, if a patron would be considered “under the influence (> .08 BAC), it can be inferred that patron was knowingly served while intoxicated.

In South Carolina, any  patron with a blood alcohol content greater than .08 (> .08 BAC) may be considered intoxicated.   The jury will be instructed that they may therefore infer that patron was knowingly served while intoxicated.

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