Our Missouri dram shop lawyers have successfully made claims against bars and taverns when they overserve customers. Missouri dram shop law allows an third party injured by an intoxicated person to sue a bar or tavern if they contribute to that person’s intoxication. The law does not allow the drunk person to sue the bar for getting them drunk.
Under common law, bars and taverns were not held responsible for personal injury caused by drunk people. Back then, the supply of alcohol was not seen as the proximate cause of the victim’s injuries. Missouri created statutory liability for bars and taverns to avoid this harsh result and to ensure bar owners act responsibly in serving liquor.
Now, there are two major ways a bar or tavern can violate the statutory dram shop laws in Missouri. Under either method the standard of proof remains the same for the injured person. They must prove their case by clear and convincing evidence.
If the person served is under 21 years old, all you must prove is that bar or tavern knew or should have known that intoxicating liquor was served to them. There is no need to prove that the bar knew the person was drunk.
If the person is over the age of 21, then Missouri dram shop laws require proof the bar or tavern knowingly served to a person who was visibly intoxicated. The law defines “visibly intoxicated” as “inebriated to such an extent that the impairment is shown by significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction.” Thus, in order to recover damages, victims must convince the jury that the driver was clearly drunk and the establishment knowingly continued to serve him or her.
The goal of this law is not to pass responsibility for the driver’s actions on to the bar. The drunk driver is still held legally accountable for the crash. Instead, these laws discourage bars and restaurants from over-serving patrons. By giving establishments a reason to avoid sending dangerously drunk people out into the world, dram shop laws attempt to reduce drunk driving accidents.
Every case involving an intoxicated driver must analyzed to see if a dram shop claim can be asserted. Any bartender will tell you that bars and restaurants are very aware of how much alcohol they serve. In Missouri, establishments that serve alcohol can be held legally responsible for over-serving a clearly drunk person who later goes on to cause a car crash.
Missouri law specifically provides that liability only exists against a person licensed to sell intoxicating liquor by the drink for consumption on the premises. This means there are no dram shop claims allowed against a seller of package liquor, even if the sale is to a minor. Because of this distinction, liquor stores, gas stations and grocery stores are not subject to Missouri’s dram shop law.
Dram shop claims are often made by victims of drunk drivers who illegally failed to buy any auto insurance, or only a limited amount of insurance to cover some very expensive injuries. This victimizes the injured people twice, leaving them with injuries as well as high medical bills they did not cause and cannot pay.
A dram shop claim can close that gap but it has to be a viable claim. That means there must be witnesses from the bar or restaurant, and they need to be able to truthfully testify that the bartender kept serving even though the driver was visibly intoxicated. An experienced Missouri dram shop attorney may also use expert witnesses to tell the jury about the driver’s likely level of intoxication.
If your family suffered a serious drunk driving accident you believe was caused by over-serving, give us a call. We have decades of experience as personal injury lawyers so we know how to prove dram shop cases, which can be tough and complicated.
We also understand how to fairly value claims for serious physical injuries or wrongful death, both of which can spawn medical costs and lost income that reach into six or seven figures.
Our St. Louis dram shop lawyers work for a contingency fee, which means we never ask for payment unless and until our clients’ cases are won. This allows us to take on all strong cases, even when the injured person cannot afford up-front legal fees. We also offer free initial consultations, so you can talk to us at no financial risk. We have the very best rating from Martindale Hubbell.
If you are considering a dram shop claim, call us for a free and confidential case evaluation at 314-400-0000.
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