Colorado social host liability is governed by statute. C.R.S. § 12-47-801(4)(a) provides that:
No social host who furnishes any alcohol beverage is civilly liable to any injured individual or his or her estate for any injury to such individual or damage to any property suffered, including any action for wrongful death, because of the intoxication of any person due to the consumption of such alcohol beverages, except when: (I) It is proven that the social host knowingly served any alcohol beverage to such person who was under the age of twenty-one years or knowingly provided the person under the age of twenty-one a place to consume an alcoholic beverage [ . . .].
A social host is typically a private individual who serves alcohol in a non-commercial setting. In Colorado social hosts can be held civilly liable for serving alcohol to minors, however a Colorado social host can be held civilly liable for serving alcohol to adults only if the adult is obviously intoxicated. Liability can arise when the person leaves the social event intoxicated and then injures another as the result of their intoxication; e.g., a person leaves a party and is then is at fault in an automobile accident that kills or injures a third party.
Before Colorado enacted C.R.S. § 12-47-801 (Colorado’s dram-shop law), the common law permitted negligence claims against alcohol beverage vendors. However, the Colorado Supreme Court never extended this kind of negligence claim to social hosts. Moreover, in enacting Colorado’s dram-shop law, the Colorado legislature expressly abolished any common law cause of action against a vendor of alcohol beverages, making the liability of alcohol vendors strictly a creature of statute in the state. C.R.S. § 12–47–801. Since the enactment of § 12-47-801, “the liability of alcohol vendors and social hosts has been strictly a creature of statute in Colorado,” and § 12-47-801 provides the exclusive remedy for the negligent provision of alcohol beverages by vendors or social hosts. Charlton v. Kimata, 815 P.2d 946, 948-49 (Colo. 1991).
Section 12-47-801(1), states that “in certain cases” the proximate cause of injuries inflicted by intoxicated persons is the consumption of alcohol beverages rather than the sale, service, or provision of such beverages “except as otherwise provided in this section.” The legislative intent of § 12-47-801(1) is to shift the responsibility for drinking alcohol from the vendor or provider to the consumer of alcohol beverages. The “certain cases” are all cases except those enumerated in C.R.S. § 12-47-801(3) and (4). Sigman v. Seafood Ltd. Partnership I, 817 P.2d 527 (Colo.1991). Thus, § 12-47-801(3) and (4) provide the only basis for a claim of negligently selling, serving, or providing alcohol beverages, because in all other cases it is the consumption of alcohol beverages that is the proximate cause of the injury caused by the intoxicated person. Rojas v. Engineered Plastic Designs, Inc., 68 P.3d 591, 592 -593 (Colo. App. 2003).
The Colorado Supreme Court has held that the dram-shop law provides the sole means for someone injured by an intoxicated person to obtain a remedy from the vendor who sold or provided alcohol to the intoxicated person. Build It and They Will Drink, Inc. v. Strauch, 253 P.3d 302, 303 (Colo. 2011). Liability occurs under Colorado’s dram-shop law when a liquor licensee willfully and knowingly serves an underage or visibly intoxicated person and, because of the intoxication, another person suffers an injury. C.R.S. § 12–47–801(1), (3)(a)(I). Under Colorado’s dram-shop law, the plaintiff can prove that the sale of alcohol was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries by showing that the liquor licensee willfully and knowingly sold alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person (or a minor). C.R.S. § 12–47–801(1), (3)(a)(I). There is a one year statute of limitations to bring an action under C.R.S. § 12–47–801.
If you or a loved one has been injured by an intoxicated person, you should have a Colorado personal injury lawyer evaluate your claim under Colorado’s dram-shop law. For a free consultation contact:
Denver Personal Injury Attorney Gregory A. Hall
Law Office of Gregory A. Hall
3570 E. 12 Avenue, Suite 200
Denver, CO 80206