Licensed Establishment Liquor Liability in Massachusetts

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Licensed Establishment Liquor Liability Litigation Attorney

Massachusetts law recognizes a cause of action against an establishment that sells alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person who then negligently operated an automobile causing injury to a third person. 

A car accident caused by a drunk driver can be devastating, particularly when you learn that the bar he was at before the accident continued to serve him despite the fact that he was clearly drunk.   It could have and should have been prevented and you have the right to be made whole for your injuries and expenses. 

Pursuing a liquor liability claim against a bar, tavern or restaurant is daunting and can be complicated.  You may be dealing with serious injuries, medical expenses and lost time from work.  Where do you begin to protect your interests?

Below, you will find some basic information about licenses establishment liquor liability, which we hope is helpful!  Please note that every case is unique and you should speak to an attorney before making any decisions.

Our attorneys at Equitas Law have represented parties to liquor liability actions for more than 20 years.  We can help you through the process and maximize your recovery at every stage of the action.

Massachusetts Licensed Establishment Liquor Liability Law

G.L. c.138, § 69, provides that:

No alcoholic beverage shall be sold or delivered on any premises . . . to an intoxicated person.”

Based on this statute, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has recognized a cause of action against an establishment that sells alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person who then negligently operated an automobile causing injury to a third person.  To prove liability on the part of the tavern owner and bartender, a party must prove that:

  1.  a patron of premises;
  2.  who is served intoxicating liquors;
  3.  while he is intoxicated;
  4.  and under circumstances from which the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that he was intoxicated when served;
  5.  operates a motor vehicle while intoxicated;
  6.  such operation was reasonably foreseeable by the defendant;
  7.  and a person of ordinary prudence would have refrained from serving liquor to that patron in the same or similar circumstances;
  8.  and such operation causes the plaintiff's death or injury within the  scope of the foreseeable risk.

The proprietor of a liquor store owes a similar duty of care to the public, which may be violated by selling liquor to minors or inebriated persons.

The Supreme Judicial Court has also recognized the potential negligence of a tavern where it serves intoxicating liquors to a patron who thereafter engages in other intentional behavior, including shooting or assaulting a third person.

A person or entity may be liable for the serving of alcohol to an intoxicated person who injures himself only  here it can be proven that there has been “willful, wanton or reckless conduct on part of the licensee or such person or entity.”  G.L. c. 231, § 85T.  However, when the injured person is an underage adult, the injured plaintiff may prevail on a showing that the establishment was negligent in serving alcoholic beverages to an underage patron.

Free Consultation on any Massachusetts Liquor Liability Case

If you would like to speak about your case and get an expert opinion, please call or text us at any time at 617-723-4163, email at or use our contact form, above.  We will listen to the facts of your case, address your concerns and let you know what your options are.

The initial consultation is free and there is no pressure to hire.  If you choose to hire us, we will give you a reasonable fee agreement, including possible contingency fee options.

Some related content...

Civil Litigation FAQ

We Hope This Helps!

The Statute of Limitations sets the time period – from a particular act – within which a legal action must be initiated. If you are a criminal or civil defendant, the SOL can serve to end the case (and eliminate your problem) at its infancy.

If you are looking to bring criminal charges against someone or to sue for civil damages, the SOL may prevent you from doing so if you wait too long.

Generally speaking, most state criminal charges have a SOL of 6 years (murder and certain types of sexual assault have no SOL, while some violent crimes have a SOL of 10 years).

Civil SOL vary too widely to set forth here, but the most commonly utilized are 3 years for personal injury actions, 4 years for consumer protection actions and 6 years for breach of contract.

To complicate matters further, the SOL can be “tolled”, or put on pause, for certain periods of time, such as when a criminal defendant flees the jurisdiction or a civil plaintiff has not yet discovered the harmful event.

As with most areas of the law, the Statute of Limitations is not as simple as it seems and it is important to consult with an attorney to determine how this issue may affect your case.

A tort is simply a term that describes an act or omission that causes injury or harm to another and may allow the court to impose civil liability.

Generally, torts fall into three categories: intentional torts (e.g., assault and battery); negligence (e.g., causing an accident by failing to obey traffic rules); and strict liability torts (e.g., making and selling defective products or dog bites).

Generally, the defendant must serve an answer to a Complaint within twenty (20) days after service of the summons and Complaint. Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1).

An answer to a Crossclaim, Counterclaim or Third-Party Complaint must be served within twenty days as well.

How you answer a complaint will have an effect on the entire case, so we strongly recommend consulting an attorney!

In responding to any pleading (most often an Answer to a Complaint), the answer must raise the following affirmative defenses or they will be waived:

  • accord and satisfaction;
  • arbitration and award;
  • assumption of risk;
  • contributory negligence;
  • discharge in bankruptcy;
  • duress;
  • estoppel;
  • failure of consideration;
  • fraud;
  • illegality;
  • injury by fellow servant;
  • laches;
  • license;
  • payment;
  • release;
  • res judicata;
  • statute of frauds;
  • statute of limitations;
  • waiver; and
  • any other matter constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense.

Mass. R. Civ. P. 8(c).  It may not seem like it, but this is a crucial stage of the case and mistakes here will cost you.  Call an attorney.

Don't ignore it!

If no responsive pleading is timely filed to a Complaint, Crossclaim, Counterclaim or Third-Party Complaint, a default may be requested pursuant to Mass. R. Civ. P. 55(a). Default Judgment may be obtained by filing appropriate Affidavits with the Clerk of Court if the amount sought is for a sum certain. Otherwise, judgment may be obtained following a hearing to determine damages.  Mass. R. Civ. P. 55(b).

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