Dram shop laws make bars and other alcohol-selling establishments liable for injuries that are caused by intoxicated persons to whom they have served alcoholic beverages. Under these laws, the bar or tavern owner may be held liable for damages and injuries to third-parties that were the result of their patron’s intoxication. Dram shop laws typically apply to over-serving patrons, meaning the individual is visibly or obviously intoxicated.
Most states have some form of dram shop law in effect. However, they vary greatly from state to state.
Illinois’ dram shop law is entitled the “Liquor Control Act.” Under the act, commercial establishments are held liable for any damages or injuries caused by intoxicated persons, provided it can be proven that:
- The vendor sold alcohol to the patron
- Injuries or damages were in fact caused by the patron
- The business was the proximate cause of the intoxication
- The intoxication was at least one major cause in the third-party’s injury
Illinois’ dram shop law is somewhat unique among state laws. This is because there is no requirement that the business have knowledge or reason to know that the person was already intoxicated. This is very different from other states which require at least noticing that the person is visibly intoxicated. Thus, the Illinois dram shop act ostensibly permits plaintiffs to recover from multiple establishments. For example, if an intoxicated person had drinks at several different bars and then struck a person with their automobile, the injured person may recover from each bar if they can satisfy the above requirements.
Illinois’ dram shop law contains a special provisions regarding the law’s applicability across state lines. The Illinois dram shop act is only enforced across state lines if the neighboring state has a similar dram shop act. For example, suppose a person consumed alcoholic beverages at an Illinois bar, then drove across state lines through the state of Kentucky, where they caused an accident which resulted in injuries to a third-party. In this case, the Illinois bar will be liable for any injuries caused across state lines only if Kentucky has a dram shop law which is similar to that of Illinois. However, if Kentucky does not have a dram shop law in effect, then the Illinois bar will not be held liable.
Thus, since many states do not have a dram shop law similar to Illinois, the application of the law to liability across state lines tends to be very limited.
Legal issues regarding dram shop violations are very serious, because they often involve multiple parties and serious injuries. A dram shop claim can quickly become complicated if it involves multiple business establishments or injuries caused in another state. For these reasons, it is important that you work closely with an Illinois attorney, whether you were a patron, the injured party, or associated with the establishment. A business attorney can help ensure your rights are protected in the event of a lawsuit.