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Missouri Dram Shop Laws

June 6, 2022Car Accidents

Missouri dram shop laws hold bars, restaurants, hotels, clubs, or other businesses that sell alcohol legally responsible for the resulting damages caused by serving an already intoxicated patron or a minor. As a result, if you are injured by a drunk driver, you may be able to sue the drunk driver and the establishment that served them as well. 

Understanding Missouri’s Dram Shop Laws

The term “dram shop” is derived from how alcohol used to be measured into a dram and then sold during the 18th century in England. Missouri Legislature enacted the Missouri Dram Shop Act in 1929. Under Missouri Statute 537.053, injured parties are allowed to pursue a claim against an alcohol vendor in the following situations: 

  • Alcohol was sold to an individual who was visibly intoxicated. 
  • Alcohol was knowingly served to a minor under the age of 21, or the establishment should have known. 
  • The alcohol consumption was the proximate cause of your injury or property damage, as demonstrated by “clear and convincing evidence.” 

Under these laws, the term “visibly intoxicated” means that the person was “inebriated to such an extent that the impairment is shown by significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction.” Unlike many other states, dram shop claims cannot be filed against any licensed alcohol vendor. Missouri law specifies that only vendors “licensed to sell intoxicating liquor by the drink for consumption on the premises” can be held liable. In other words, convenience stores or shops that sell packaged alcohol are not subject to dram shop liability. Additionally, social hosts who provide alcohol to someone who later causes injury to another cannot be held liable even if the intoxicated individual was under the age of 21. 

What Do These Laws Mean for a Victim of a Drunk Driver? 

Dram shop laws mean that drunk driving accident victims, or their families, can possibly recover damages from the bar, restaurant, etc. that sold alcohol to the negligent driver. However, the victim must be able to prove both proximate cause and that the sale of alcohol was inappropriate. You will need to gather evidence demonstrating that the drunk driver drank at a place of business, the extent of their intoxication, that they were served although visibly intoxicated, permitted to leave the premises in their vehicle, and caused your accident. Collecting this evidence and navigating state laws to prove proximate cause can be extremely challenging. If successful, the commercial establishment can be held responsible for your:

  • Current and future medical expenses
  • Current and future loss of income and benefits
  • Diminished earning capacity
  • Property damage
  • Physical pain, mental anguish, and emotional suffering
  • Permanent disability, scarring, and disfigurement
  • Funeral, burial expenses, and more if the victim was killed. 

Missouri has a statute of limitations that sets a time limit for filing a dram shop claim. These cases must be pursued within five years of the date of the injury. There are few exceptions, and if you miss this deadline, you will likely lose your right to recover compensation. Since each situation is different, contact a St. Louis car accident attorney as soon as possible to determine your legal options and ensure your rights are protected.

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