Licensed in Missouri and Kansas

Dram Shop Liability

This term refers to the liability of alcohol-serving establishments for injuries or losses caused by intoxicated patrons outside of the premises. It generally applies when a bar serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who then later causes an accident after leaving the bar.

In Missouri, dram shop liability cases are governed by statute. Section 537.053 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri spells out types of dram shop liability cases. The first is when a bar knowingly sells alcohol to a minor, the second is when the bar knowingly serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. Each requires the intoxicated person causing some kind of harm due to their intoxication. The victim of that harm can then make a claim against the bar that served the alcohol to the minor or intoxicated person.

The challenge in making a claim against a bar for serving a visibly intoxicated person who later causes harm is proving that the bar knew the patron was intoxicated. The Missouri statute says that a bar should know someone is intoxicated when he or she is "inebriated to such an extent that the impairment is shown by significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction. A person's blood alcohol content does not constitute prima facie evidence to establish that a person is visibly intoxicated within the meaning of this section, but may be admissible as relevant evidence of the person's intoxication."

This is a difficult threshold. Gathering proof of visible intoxication is often accomplished by eyewitness testimony. However, the eyewitnesses are often people who were also drinking at the same bar and their memory may be foggy. The best evidence is to hope that the bar maintains some sort of surveillance footage of the patron.

There are many other nuances to Missouri dram shop liability cases. If you have questions, please feel free to contact our firm.