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Dram Shop

The law firm of WWF&G handles numerous dramshop cases. Dramshop cases evolve from fights at taverns, accidents with drunk drivers, and generally where an intoxicated person causes injury to a person or their property. There is no time to wait when it comes to dramshop cases.

What Is A Dramshop?

A dramshop is a legal term which refers to a bar, tavern, or even a grocery store where alcoholic beverages are sold.

How Has Dramshop Liability Evolved?

Basically, social host liability was unfair. A person would have some friends over for a few beers and could subject themselves to liability. Dramshop laws were passed to protect social hosts. Today, the entities that profit from the sale of alcohol can be liable if a person is injured from the alcohol they sold. For example, Jim has friends over for a drink. One of them becomes drunk, causes an accident and injures someone. Jim is not liable. The injured party can recover from the dramshop that sold alcohol to Jim, but not Jim – even if Jim was overserved.

The fundamental principal behind the Dramshop Act is that the economic burden created by injuries from consumption of alcohol should be borne by the entire liquor industry. Those who profit from the sale of alcohol will share in the responsibility for the risks associated with alcohol.

Dramshops are aware of this risk when they apply for a liquor license. Almost all dramshops have insurance to cover this risk.

Who Is Covered Under dram shop law?

  1. All owners of liquor licenses; and
  2. Owners of property where dramshops operate.

Are There Damage Limitations? Yes.

1998 MAXIMUM 45,000 for personal injury
55,000 for loss of society (wrongful death) or loss of support

2008 MAXIMUM $58,599.59 for personal injury
$71,621.72 for loss of society (wrongful death) or loss of support

  1. What Does This Mean? If Plaintiff wins, he/she can get medical bills, wages, pain and suffering, and loss of normal life up to $58,599.59 or his family can get a wrongful death award up to $71,621.72. Even if jury awards $500,000 for wrongful death, the judge will reduce the verdict to the dramshop limits in effect at the time of the verdict.Example: Plaintiff is killed by a drunk driver, and a jury awards $5,000,000 to the his/her family. This verdict is reduced to the applicable limits.
  2. Do The Limits Increase Each Year? Yes.LIMITS INCREASE EACH YEAR – According to the Consumer Price Index. Just check www.state.il.us/lcc for updated limits.

    Limits are those that are in effect at time of settlement or verdict, not the incident.

  3. Is There One Limit For All Defendants? Yes.
    If there are 5 Defendants, Plaintiff can still only get the single limit. This happens often as alleged intoxicated persons will consume alcohol at many dramshops in one night.

How Long Do You Have To File A Lawsuit? One Year

The Statute of limitations for dramshop cases is one year from the date of the incident. THIS STATUTE EVEN APPLIES TO MINORS, unlike other areas of law where the statute is tolled. for minors. In Illinois, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is 2 years, and for minors, two years from their 18th birthday – BUT NOT WITH DRAMSHOP.

DON’T LET YOUR CLAIM LAPSE – ONE YEAR IS SHORT – One Year is a short statute. It is difficult to find out where an intoxicated person consumed alcohol. An attorney must act fast to file suit, and take proper depositions. Many good claims lapse due to this.

What Are The Main Defenses To Dramshop Cases?

  1. Complicity – “One who contributes to or procures the intoxication of the intoxicated person is precluded from recovery.”
  2. Provocation– If Plaintiff starts the fight, he can lose. Attorneys joke that whoever loses the fight has the dram shop case.

What Are Some Examples of Cases You Have Handled?

  1. Man driving to work in the morning killed by a drunk driver in a head on collision.
  2. Pedestrian on roadway killed by drunk driver who fled scene and was caught.
  3. Woman had her hair pulled out at a bar by a drunk woman.
  4. Sober man trying to break up a bar fight is kicked severing his spleen.
  5. Drunk driver hits a telephone pole, knocks it to the ground. Neighbor comes out to help, drunk pushes him down and fractures neighbor’s ankle, and drunk flees scene.
  6. Man attacked by a drunk man with a baseball bat, resulting in fractured skull.
  7. Drunk driver kills a pedestrian standing next to a vehicle. Drunk driver consumed alcohol purchased from Walmart.
  8. Numerous others; generally 20-30 pending dramshop claims.