A Georgia Supreme Court ruling this week likely won’t have much impact on the state’s convenience stores.
The court said a convenience store can be sued if it sells alcohol to an intoxicated customer who then injures or kills others.
But the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores has always warned its members not to sell to an underage or intoxicated customer, according to its president, Jim Tudor.
“We have always indicated to our members that if you make that sale to either party, and they injure a third party, then there is a potential liability to you,” Tudor said.
Tudor said store owners and clerks know they could face lawsuits under the state’s so-called dram shop law. He said it’s not worth the risk.
“You have a license [and] that license is a privilege,” Tudor said.
He said store owners have a responsibility to protect their customers, too.
“The customer that came in who’s sober could very well be injured by the customer you sell to that’s not,” Tudor said.
The Supreme Court case involved a Clinch County convenience store that was sued after a customer killed himself and five others in a car accident after buying beer at the store. He was already intoxicated when he bought the beer.
Tudor said the ruling – and the dram shop law – applies to any retailer who sells alcohol, not just convenience stores.
Georgia’s dram shop law says anyone who sells, furnishes or serves alcohol to an underage person or a noticeably intoxicated person who will soon drive a vehicle can be liable for the injury or damage that person causes.
Tudor said he asked lawyers to review the Supreme Court ruling and will suggest new guidelines to his members if they’re needed. But he said the decision confirmed what was already existing law.
Read the full Georgia Supreme Court ruling here.