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South Carolina Liquor Liability Law

In South Carolina, restaurants and bars that serve alcohol on the premises, and remain open after 5:00 p.m., are required to have a minimum $1 million liquor liability policy pursuant to South Carolina Code Section 61-2-145. This law was passed in 2017. The law has recently made headlines as some in the restaurant and hospitality industry have made claims that the rising insurance rates for this type of coverage are causing some bars, restaurants, and concert venues to close down.

The discussion and attempts to pass the drastically needed legislation, South Carolina Code Section 61-2-145, began almost ten years ago when a woman left an establishment inebriated, drove drunk, and crashed into a police officer. The intoxicated woman survived, however, the collision she caused resulted in the death of her passenger. The officer she hit was severely injured and suffered permanent brain damage. The nightclub where she was over served had no insurance and no assets to pay for the damages. As a result, the city that employed the officer was forced to pay over $1,000,000 for the officer’s medical care and expenses while the negligent nightclub that over served this individual contributed nothing. The nightclub’s liability was passed onto the city which was forced to pay over $1 million for the officer’s medical care and expenses while the nightclub didn’t have to pay anything. 

In response, the South Carolina Association of Justice, the injured officer’s father, MADD, and legislators went on to write the bill that was later codified as South Carolina Code Section 61-2-145.  This law has done a great job at keeping our roads safer and preventing drunk driving. Due to dramatically rising insurance rates, this law aimed at preventing tragic injuries and death has been wrongly blamed as the culprit. 

We do not want to see this law changed. We feel it is very needed and provides a tremendous incentive to prevent bars and restaurants from over serving their patrons. Prior to this law, victims of drunk drivers who had been over served had nowhere to turn for recovery in most cases because bars were not required to have coverage. Just this month, a sports bar in Lexington County shared on their social media that they would also be closing, blaming the higher rates. A day later, a noticeably intoxicated couple at this same bar, who continued to serve them, left the establishment and got into their vehicle, killing a 17-year-old girl and her grandfather (Post and Courier). 

While it is unfortunate local businesses have seen their insurance rates rise dramatically, it is not unique to this industry. Insurance rates in all sectors have been up due to inflation, natural disasters, etc. There is a lot of misinformation and one-sided information that has been put out on this topic in support of changing the law (Post and Courier). We should be focusing efforts on training and putting procedures in place to prevent individuals under the influence from getting behind the wheel. Doing away with this law will only make our roads less safe. 

If you have been injured or involved in a car accident, contact the Philpot Law Firm today to schedule your free consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys.