Part 5 – Alabama’s Civil Damages Act (additional considerations)

Why should a “kid” who buys alcohol be able to sue the bar or store?

Under the Civil Damages Act, only a parent or legal guardian of the minor can sue a business for selling or furnishing alcohol to the minor. The underage drinker has no claim. This is because a parent is pursuing a claim against the business that sold or provided the alcohol to their minor child.

Additionally, only one parent (or guardian) can file suit for a violation of this Act. Therefore, if the minor’s parents are divorced, they cannot each maintain separate claims. One violation – one claim.

What if no one is injured as a result of the minor purchasing alcohol?

Unlike Alabama’s Dram Shop Act, no one has to be injured in order for there to be a claim under the Civil Damages Act. The violation occurs at the time the alcohol is sold or provided. However, if the minor is injured or dies as a result of the purchase and consumption of the alcohol, this may be offered as evidence in support of the claim and the damages to be awarded.

What damages are available under the Civil Damages Act?

Only punitive damages (to punish or deter) may be awarded for a violation of the Civil Damages Act. Thus, if the minor is injured or dies, compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering cannot be recovered.

What if someone else is injured as a result of the minor purchasing alcohol and getting intoxicated?

Others who are injured due to a minor being served alcohol cannot maintain a claim under the Civil Damages Act. Any recovery would be under the Dram Shop Act, because the sale of alcohol to the minor was “in violation of the law.”

What if the alcohol is furnished by a friend or the parent of a friend?

The Alabama Supreme Court has never decided whether a claim may be maintained under the Civil Damages Act if the minor is furnished alcohol by someone other than a business. On the one hand the stated purpose of the Act is to “curtail the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors.” On the other, providing alcohol to a minor could be in violation of Alabama’s Open House Party law, which prohibits an adult from having a party at their home at which alcohol is being provided to minors. This is a question that needs to be answered.

Does a business that sells alcohol have insurance to cover either of these claims?

Under regulations adopted by the ABC Board, all businesses that sell alcohol in Alabama must maintain at least $100,000.00 (per incident) in liquor liability insurance coverage. The larger the business (such as a chain restaurant), the more likely it is that they will have higher limits of coverage.