Missouri Dram Shop Law Liability Not Applicable to Social Hosts – Usually

People go to bars for several reasons, chief among them to indulge in alcohol.  Businesses, especially bars, must put human safety above profits and recognize that it is serving someone who is already intoxicated. This may seem a bit counterintuitive – asking a bar to stop serving a paying customer – but the fact remains under the Missouri dram shop law, establishments have a recognized duty to act responsibly by not continuing to serve those who are clearly intoxicated.

Under the Missouri dram shop law, an establishment that violates that duty can be held responsible for the resulting injuries or harms that are caused. This law, however, has expressly not be extended to social hosts, but that’s not the end of the story.


What is the Missouri Dram Shop Law?

The Missouri dram shop law just says that a business can be held liable for injuries caused by an intoxicated person that it served. If the business ignores public safety and serves a drunk person, and that person causes a wreck, assaults someone, or does other types of damage, the establishment may be held responsible in some circumstances. These are hard cases to prove, and they can be very difficult to win.


Who is Liable Under Missouri Dram Shop Law?

For-profit businesses that sell alcohol are generally covered by the Missouri dram shop law. These may include:

  • Taverns
  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Nightclubs
  • Private Bottle Clubs
  • Any commercial establishment that sells alcohol


Missouri Dram Shop Law
The Missouri Dram Shop Law can hold a business liable for injuries caused by drunken patrons leaving their establishment.

When is a Business Liable Under the Dram Shop Law?

While the general rule says that the business is not liable, there are instances when liability may extend to a business and its ownership. The two primary exceptions are if the business served alcohol to someone under 21 years of age or to a person who is “visibly intoxicated.”

Section 537.053 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, defines this so-called visible intoxication as being so drunk that “the impairment is shown by significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction.” The law clarifies that just because someone has a high blood alcohol level is not automatically a sign that they were visibly intoxicated. Instead, it can be used as evidence that the person likely was visibly intoxicated.


Does the Dram Shop Law extend to my House Party?

Missouri lawmakers and courts – like those in most states – have refused to extend dram shop liability to what are known as “social hosts.” The idea is that it would make life very difficult if private citizens were all liable for the drunken conduct of friends and family who have a few drinks at their homes.  So, for the most part, if a person gets drunk at a friend’s house then hurts someone in a DUI crash, the friend will not be responsible for the injuries. That said, of course, there can be exceptions.

For instance, if a house party is professionally catered by a company, bar, or other company that sells alcohol on the premises, there may be an exception. The key reason for dram shop liability not extending to social hosts is that they have no financial incentive. They are not selling alcohol for profit. So while in either case, the social host is not liable in Missouri, caterers and other professional alcohol service companies may be. This is why it’s so important to consult a dram shop lawyer right away if you think you may have a case.


Get Experienced Help With Your Injury Case

If you are injured in Kansas City or the surrounding areas, call the Krause and Kinsman Law Firm to speak with someone about your case today. We don’t take every case, but we fight hard for the clients we serve. The call is free, and we never collect unless we can recover compensation on your behalf.

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