Dram Shop

Illinois law provides a remedy against owners of businesses that sell liquor which causes intoxication. The Dram Shop Act provides that every person who is injured by any intoxicated person as a result of his intoxication has a claim against any person who sells or gives alcoholic liquor thereby causing the intoxication of the intoxicated person. Liability extends to lessors or owners of the business selling liquor but does not extend to private persons providing alcohol.

In order to succeed in a Dram Shop action against an allegedly intoxicated driver, the plaintiff must prove the following:

  1. The defendant was intoxicated at the time of the collision;
  2. The defendant, his agents or employees sold or gave intoxicating liquor consumed by the intoxicated person;
  3. The liquor caused the intoxication of the intoxicated person;
  4. The defendant’s intoxication was at least one cause of the occurrence in question;
  5. As a result of the occurrence, the plaintiff suffered injury or damage to his property.

A person is “intoxicated” when as a result of drinking alcoholic liquor there is an impairment of his mental or physical faculties so as to diminish his ability to think and act. “Alcoholic liquor” includes any liquid or solid containing alcohol such as wine, beer, brandy, rum, whiskey or gin. “Alcoholic liquor” does not mean or include any solid or liquid which contains 1/2 of 1% or less of alcohol, by volume.

Several defenses are available to a defendant in a case brought under the Dram Shop Act. If a jury finds that a plaintiff did any of the following then the plaintiff cannot recover damages under the Dram Shop Act:

  • Willingly caused the intoxication of the intoxicated defendant;
  • willingly encouraged the drinking which caused the intoxication of the intoxicated defendant;
  • voluntarily participated to a material and substantial extent in the drinking which lead to the intoxication of the intoxicated defendant;
  • actively contributed to or procured the intoxication of the intoxicated defendant;
  • provoked the conduct of the intoxicated defendant which caused the injury.

Although the Dram Shop Act provides a cause of action against liquor licensees who distribute alcohol, the amount of damages which can be collected are limited by statute. The Illinois legislature established that recovery for injury to person or property cannot exceed $45,000. A limit of $55,000 for either loss of support or loss of society resulting from death or injury was also provided. On January 20 of each year, the liability limits are automatically increased or decreased by a percentage equal to the percentage change and the consumer price index during the preceding 12 month calendar year. The limits of recovery under the Dram Shop Act therefore vary from year to year.

The statute of limitations for the filing of a Dram Shop action in the State of Illinois is one year from the date of the accident.

In addition to an action under the Dram Shop Act, an injured person also has the right to pursue a claim against the driver for his negligence. Illinois does not cap the damages that may be recovered in that regard.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident caused by an intoxicated driver, call 800-437-2571 anytime for a free, no obligation Consult with an experienced personal injury attorney or use our convenient Free Case Evaluation submission form.