Welcome to The Community Guide! Let us know what you think of the website by completing this quick survey.

Alcohol – Excessive Consumption: Dram Shop Liability


What the CPSTF Found

About The Systematic Review

The CPSTF finding is based on evidence from a systematic review of 11 studies (search period through October 2007).

The review was conducted on behalf of the CPSTF by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice, and policy related to preventing excessive alcohol consumption.

Summary of Results

More details about study results are available in the CPSTF Finding and Rationale Statement pdf icon [PDF - 151 KB].

The systematic review included 11 studies.

  • Studies assessed the effects of state dram shop liability laws on different outcomes (i.e., motor vehicle deaths overall, alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths, alcohol consumption behaviors, alcohol-related violence, alcohol-related diseases).
    • Most found dram shop liability laws were associated with reductions in alcohol-related outcomes (11 studies).
    • Alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths decreased by a median of 6.4% (6 studies)
  • One study assessed the effects of two high-profile dram shop liability suits in Texas. These suits led to estimated decreases of 6.6% and 5.3% in single vehicle nighttime crashes (closely associated with excessive alcohol consumption).

Summary of Economic Evidence

An economic review of this intervention did not find any relevant studies.


Most of the included studies were done before the late 1990s. Since then, some states have enacted limits on the financial liability of servers and managers, set statutes of limitation that require injured plaintiffs to sue within a specified time period, or increased the standard of evidence required to prove illegal beverage services. Such changes may limit the applicability of the findings of this review.

Evidence Gaps

The CPSTF identified several areas that have limited information. Additional research and evaluation could help answer the following questions and fill remaining gaps in the evidence base. What are evidence gaps?

  • What is the impact, if any, of state laws that limit dram shop liability?
  • How can we improve methods for identifying patrons who are intoxicated, underage, or both?
  • Are there other ways to avoid overservice (serving someone too many drinks), such as counting drinks, providing food to space out drinks, or serving nonalcoholic drinks once a threshold has been achieved?
  • What is the economic benefit of dram shop liability?
  • What are additional benefits of dram shop liability?

Study Characteristics

All but one of the studies were panel studies of U.S. states that used econometric models.