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What is a Dram Shop Claim?

By John Hipskind on July 13, 2015

Dram shop laws hold bars, restaurants, and sometimes even party hosts responsible for the sale or gift of alcohol to someone who becomes intoxicated and subsequently causes some type of harm, damage, injury, or even death.  Dram shop claims arise in a variety of situations.  For example, let’s assume that Mr. Smith has to much to drink at a local bar.  He then leaves the bar, gets into his car and causes an accident on his way home.  If you, a loved one, or your property was damaged by Mr. Smith on his way home, you may be entitled to a recovery from both Mr. Smith and the bar who sold him his drinks.

That is the typical type of dram shop claim, but it isn’t the only one.  Let’s look at another scenario, Mr. Smith has too much to drink at a local bar.  He leaves the bar and goes to a friend’s party.  At this party Brad gets into a fight and severely injuries a Mr. Doe.  Mr. Doe would not only have a claim against Brad, but also a potential claim against the bar that served Brad the alcohol.

Should I Contact an Attorney about my potential Dram Shop Claim?

If you or a loved one was injured or suffered property damage at the hands of an intoxicated person, it is important for you to educate yourself on the ins and outs of the applicable dram shop laws to determine if you have a right of recovery from the vendor who provided him the alcohol.  See below for a brief overview of the Illinois and Missouri dram shop acts.

What is an Illinois Dram Shop Claim?

 In Illinois, dram shop claims are governed by the Liquor Control Act, 235 ILCS 5/1.  Under the Illinois dram shop act, an alcohol vendor can be held responsible for any injuries or damages caused by an intoxicated person or persons, if the following can be established:

  1. The vendor sold alcohol to the person(s) responsible for the damages and/or injuries;
  2. The person caused damages and/or injures;
  3. The alcohol served by the vender was the cause of the person’s intoxication; and
  4. The person’s intoxication was a cause of the act/acts that led to the injuries and/or damages

Illinois is unique in that it does not require that the vendor know that the person at issue was intoxicated.  This arguably creates a lower threshold of proof than is required by most other states and, notably, allows you to recover from multiple vendors if the person at issue visited more than one bar/restaurant on the night in question.

At first blush, the Illinois Dram Shop Act may seem favorable to the injured party.  Unfortunately, Illinois “balances” this alleged favoritism out by enforcing artificial and improper damage caps for any dram shop claims.  As of 2015, Illinois limits recovery for dram shop claims of persons injured, killed, or incurring property damage at $65,511.99 and claims for a loss of means of support or loss of society at $80,070.21.  Although difficult, depending on the facts of your claim, you may be able to surpass these limits if the conduct of the vendor went beyond simply serving the intoxicated person alcohol.  This demonstrates the necessity of speaking to an attorney as soon as you can after learning of a potential dram shop claim in order to protect and maximize your claim.

What is a Missouri Dram Shop Claim?

In Missouri, dram shop claims are governed by Missouri Revised Statutes section 537-053.  Only vendors who are licensed to sell intoxicating liquor, such as bars, taverns, and restaurants are subject to the dram shop claims.

Pursuant to Missouri law, a person who suffers injury and or property damage may bring a dram shop claim if the vendor served someone who was “visibly intoxicated.”  This differentiates it from Illinois law that does not carry any similar requirement.  In order for a person to be visibly intoxicated you must demonstrate that he had some type of physical dysfunction or was significantly uncoordinated.  Missouri also requires the injured party to establish this physical dysfunction by clear and convincing evidence, only heightening the burden.

It is also important to be aware that while Missouri has a higher threshold to establish a claim, it does not place any limit on a claimants potential recovery allowing an injured party to obtain what a jury believes fair and just under the circumstances.

Dram Shop Attorneys Servicing Belleville, St. Louis, and Edwardsville

Dram shop claims are serious legal issues that often involve multiple parties and severe injuries.  A dram shop action can become very complicated if multiple vendors or individuals are involved.  If you have a potential dram shop claim it is important that you insure your rights are protected by contact a dram shop attorney as soon as possible.  If you have any questions about a potential dram shop claim please contact one of the experienced contract attorneys at Hipskind & McAninch: 618-641-9189 (IL) | 314-312-2930 | info@hm-attorneys.com.

Authored by: Brady McAninch

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