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Dram Shop Liability

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Historically, the term “Dram Shop” refers to any establishment that sells alcoholic beverages. The term is still used today in the context of “Dram Shop Liability” which is the body of laws governing establishments like bars and restaurants. The basic policy behind Dram Shop Liability is the protection of the innocent general public from foreseeable injuries caused by a drunk patron, should the bar continue to serve more alcohol to an already-intoxicated drinker. For example, an alcohol-related car accident is a common foreseeable injury in this scenario.

The Dram Shop Liability laws eventually spread to private premises, and now “Social Host Liability” is something that can get homeowners and party hosts into trouble.

How Does This Affect You?

Allowing Dram Shop Liability to apply to social hosts means that landowners may be found responsible for the actions of their intoxicated guests once a guest leaves their property and begins interacting with the general public. The most common example of this is when a drunk guest decides to drive himself home and crashes into an innocent third party. Social Host Liability doesn’t take blame away from the drunk driver. Instead, the question is whether or not the injured third party may also sue the person who provided the alcohol to the drunken driver. The idea is that the provider of alcohol owes some duty of care to the general public by preventing individuals from getting seriously intoxicated and causing harm to others.

Opponents to Social Host Liability argue that adults should be personally responsible for their actions, and want to encourage responsibility rather than shifting the blame to providers who may find it difficult to determine when it is appropriate to refuse to continue serving someone; especially in the case of a private home where the host probably doesn’t have a liquor license or the heightened awareness and training that inevitably accompanies a liquor license.

In cases where a vendor of alcoholic beverages is involved, many states agree to hold the provider liable when the defendant is a minor, under the age of 21. However, when the defendant is an intoxicated adult, states are mostly split between applying full or limited liability.

Remember, the victim, or parents of a victim, may always sue the person who caused the injuries first-hand: i.e the drunken individual. Social Host Liability only pertains to the liability that the person hosting the party incurs as the result of an accident involving one of their intoxicated guests.

Missouri Social Host Liability

If a minor gets drunk at your home in Missouri, you will probably find yourself in violation of a criminal statute which imposes a fine as well as possible jail time. If you “knowingly allow” or “knowingly fail to stop” a minor from “drinking or possessing” alcohol on your property, you are in violation of Missouri Statute 311.310 and thus guilty of a class B misdemeanor.

However, Missouri courts have refused to use this statute as a basis for finding individuals civilly responsible to those injured by drunken guests that leave their property. The courts acknowledge that though it is criminally unlawful to provide alcoholic beverages to minors, that does not give plaintiffs a civil cause of action (such as a wrongful death lawsuit) against the social hosts.

In other words: the state can punish a social host for providing alcohol to underage kids, but the parents of the guests couldn’t file their own civil lawsuit against the property owners–in Missouri.

Missouri does have a dram shop liability statute imposing responsibility on professional vendors of alcoholic beverages for their service to minors and limited responsibility for their service of adults.

Kansas Social Host Liability

Kansas is one of eight states that does not have any Dram Shop Liability law. So vendors are not civilly liable for anything the alcohol that they serve provokes their guests to do. Kansas does have a criminal statute prohibiting the service of alcohol to minors on one’s land. And the State can prosecute someone for violating this statute, which will result in a moderate fine and possible jail time.

Kansas courts, like Missouri, have also held that though they have a statute criminalizing the service of alcohol to intoxicated or minor persons, there is no civil cause of action, or grounds on which to sue, for victims against the social host.

Get Personal Injury or DUI Help from Grover Law Firm

If you’ve been charged with DUI, or are suffering from a personal injury, our professional attorneys at Grover Law Firm in Kansas City can help. In order to avoid significant fines, revocation of driving privileges, or even jail time, it is essential to contact a DUI attorney as soon as possible after being charged.

You should never drink and drive, but if you do find yourself facing DUI charges, give us a call immediately or visit our website to request more information. We’ll do everything we can to ensure the best outcome for your case — and your life.