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Dram Shop, The Toxicology and the Law

Total Credits
1.5 - 2.1
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Attorneys may regularly encounter criminal cases involving alcohol, such as DUI cases. But what about civil personal injury cases where alcohol is involved? One such example is the dram shop case. A driver who is intoxicated following the use of alcohol may or may not have been visibly intoxicated while served at an establishment. If an injury occurs, was it a result of that patron being overserved? Was the patron underage? Dram shop statutes will vary from state to state; however, there are some key points for attorneys to know.

Although there are many scenarios in civil litigation where alcohol may be involved, this CLE program is an overview of the toxicology of alcohol with a focus on the legal aspects of dram shop cases. What are some toxicology pearls that attorneys need to know about these cases? How and when does alcohol manifest (signs of) intoxication? What about blood alcohol levels and visible intoxication? What are the theories of liability under dram shop statutes? What are the common defenses to liability? What are some pitfalls and nuances to dram shop cases from the legal aspect of the lawsuit? Are there recovery and insurance issues to be aware of? These and other questions will be answered in this CLE program presented by a toxicologist and an attorney specializing in defending dram shop claims. Faculty will also share insights, unique challenges, and modifications surrounding a dram shop jury trial that took place during COVID-19. Plaintiff and defense counsel alike, across the US, can benefit from the education presented in this CLE.

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify the two types of tolerance from alcohol use.
  • Describe the correlation between blood alcohol levels and signs of visible intoxication.
  • Identify 3 key pitfalls in the litigation of a dram shop case.
  • Identify 1 challenge in litigating a dram shop case from the defense side.
  • Identify 1 challenge in litigating a dram shop case from the plaintiff side.

Lecturer Bios

Allison A. Muller, PharmD, D.ABAT, FAACT

Dr. Muller is a board-certified toxicologist, fellow of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, and registered pharmacist with over 20 years’ experience in the field of clinical toxicology. After a nearly 20year career leading the Poison Control Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which included consulting on toxicology cases from 21 counties in Pennsylvania and Delaware, Dr. Muller is presently an independent consultant. She specializes in medical communications and expert witness testimony. Dr. Muller has experience in cases involving alcohol, drugs of abuse (opioids, marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids, cocaine), carbon monoxide, medication errors, and postmortem toxicology. She is also adjunct faculty at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

Acri Muller Consulting, LLC

M. Scott Gemberling, Esq.

For over 30 years, Scott has focused a significant portion of his practice on the defense of liquor liability, professional liability (legal, accounting, employment, D&O, non-profit, HOA) and significant exposure excess insurance claims. Scott has tried over 100 cases to verdict, many involving dram shop, medical and dental malpractice and product liability matters.

In addition to his law practice, Scott has lectured extensively to various claims and trial lawyer associations concerning liquor liability, settlement negotiations and trial tactics. He serves as the National Litigation Coordinator for high-exposure liquor liability, professional liability and excess claims cases for a number of national insurance companies. Scott has actively defended liquor liability, casualty and professional liability claims in a variety of jurisdictions including Florida, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Michigan, Minnesota, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Washington, Arizona, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Since 1995, Scott has served on the faculty of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute for its annual Tort Law Update Program lecturing attorneys on subjects including dram shop liability and the admission of evidence of alcohol in civil cases. He has served as a judge pro tem in Delaware County (1997-2002), co-chairman of the Delaware County Civil Trial Practice Committee (1998-2002) and a member of the Delaware County Judicial Advisory Committee. He also serves as both coordinator and faculty for a Pennsylvania Bar Institute sponsored Dram Shop Liability Seminar presented on numerous occasions since 1999.

Scott graduated from Clarion State University in 1974 and completed master's credits toward a Master of Psychosocial Science at the Pennsylvania State University from 1976 through 1978. He concluded his legal education at Widener University School of Law in 1981. Scott began his career with Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin as a law clerk in 1979 and continued employment with the firm following his admission to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1981.

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