When is a Bar/Restaurant Responsible for a Drunk Driver?
If you have been in an accident as a result of a drunk driver, the driver may not be the only one responsible for your damages. Dram Shop Laws allow for alcoholic beverage vendors, such as bars, restaurants, or taverns, to be held accountable for serving a customer too much alcohol. The dram shop laws got their name because, in the 1700s, English bars would sell gin by the spoonful, also known as a “dram.” It is a dram shop’s responsibility to serve consumers responsibly and to ensure that anyone who drinks on the vicinity is at least 21 years of age. Failure to follow these safety laws may cause injury or harm to a third party, and result in the business being held responsible for a portion of the damages.
Dram Shop Laws Vary By State
Each state varies with the implementation of its dram shop laws. There are currently only seven states which do not have laws which hold the alcohol distributor liable for injuries suffered when they over-serve a customer. Some states, such as Wisconsin, only hold vendors responsible if knowingly serving an underage customer. Other states, such as Missouri, expand on Wisconsin’s set of dram shop laws to include the liability of a vendor if serving an of age person who is displaying signs of obvious intoxication. Other states continue to expand the law to allow the intoxicated individual to file suit against the vendor for serving the plaintiff too much alcohol, resulting in an injury to the plaintiff or another. Each state may have its own restrictions to the law’s application. Missouri’s Dram Shop Laws do not apply to vendors where the alcohol is bought packaged, such as from a grocery store. In addition, the law does not apply to social hosts, such as hosts to parties or events.
Missouri Dram Shop Liability for Serving Those Under 21
Missouri, like most states, allows the injured victim to sue the bar or restaurant if injured by an intoxicated minor (anyone under 21). In the eyes of the law, it is the responsibility of the vendor to provide appropriate precautions to ensure no one underage is served alcohol. The damages caused as a result of underage drinking becomes the responsibility of the alcohol distributor as well as the underage individual. If you have been injured by someone intoxicated who was underage, you may be able to hold the source from where the underage individual acquired the liquor responsible.
Updates To Missouri’s Dram Shop Law
The Missouri Dram Shop Law (Mo.Rev.Stat.§537.053) was updated in 2002. The new updates require a greater standard of proof that shows “clear and convincing evidence” instead of the previous “more likely than not” standard. The injured party is now required to demonstrate strong support that the vendor or bartender is responsible for over-serving the patron when he or she was visibly intoxicated already.
The Missouri statute specifies that visible intoxication occurs when an individual is “inebriated to such an extent that the impairment is shown by significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction.” This definition extends to an individual slurring speech and stumbling up to the bar. The statute directs that in order for the bar to be held accountable, it must “knowingly” serve a severely intoxicated individual. The statute fails to define knowingly, and as a result, interpretation has varied case by case.
Missouri Cases Applying The Dram Shop Law
In order to meet the “clear and convincing evidence” requirements, there needs to be more evidence than an individual’s blood alcohol content to establish that he or she was “visibly intoxicated” at the time of being served more drinks. Eye witnesses or security footage can establish the observable traits and functionality of the intoxicated individual if immediately preserved.
However, in 2011, in Nokes v. HMS Host USA, LLC, et al, no eye-witness or footage was needed to establish the visibly intoxicated context. Instead, the plaintiff argued “the statute requires only that impairment be ‘shown,’ not that someone must observe a visibly intoxicated person.” To establish the bartender’s knowledge of serving a visibly intoxicated man, the jury relied on a drink receipt for the four double-shot whiskey drinks consumed at the bar, the police report at the scene of the car accident indicating the driver’s failed sobriety test, the blood alcohol level of .169%, and an expert witness testifying to the different blood alcohol levels after consumption of each drink. The expert witness testified that the individual would have displayed obvious signs of drunkenness, which any trained-observer would have easily identified. This Missouri case was crucial in establishing that, while blood alcohol content levels alone are not sufficient for a judgment, observations of intoxication can be interpreted in handful of ways.
The type of settlements in Missouri range vastly. Currently there is no cap to the amount of compensation one can collect for damages. In 2009, one Missouri women received $1 million dollars in a dram shop settlement with a bar in Columbia, far greater than the initial $30,000 proposed by the insurance company. There are statutes of limitations to file a claim in each state. Missouri has a statue of limitations of five years, so it is vital to file any claims before that time expires in order to receive compensation. More importantly, waiting can result in the loss of crucial evidence necessary to support the claim.
Why You Should Hire The Dixon Injury Firm
Injuries and deaths due to car accidents are hard enough, but to discover that the accident occurred as a result of failure to act and drink responsibly is devastating. If you or a loved one have been affected by an intoxicated driver, the driver, while still to blame, may not be the only one who deserves to be held accountable. Far too often, bartenders turn a blind eye to visibly intoxicated patrons for the sake of receiving a good tip and ensuring returning customers. This is unacceptable.
At The Dixon Injury Firm, we represent those who have fallen victims to unprofessional and unsafe practices. We will apply Missouri’s Dram Shop Laws in your favor to ensure that you receive the proper compensation that you deserve for all of your harms and losses. We want to make sure the sources of your suffering are held accountable.
Unsure if you have enough evidence to file a claim? Contact a dram shop lawye today at The Dixon Injury Firm for a free consultation at (314) 409-7060 to see what legal route is best for you.