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Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on January 23rd, 2012,
by Zane Cagle

Posted on January 23rd, 2012 by Zane Cagle

Dram Shop-Drunk Driving

When a person is injured by a drunk driver, the person that is injured has the right to pursue a claim for negligence against the driver.  In addition to a negligence claim, the injured person may have what is called a Dram Shop cause of action. Dram Shop or dramshop is a legal term in the U.S referring to a bar, tavern or the like where alcoholic beverages are sold.  Traditionally, it referred to a shop where spirits were sold by the dram, a small unit of liquid.  Dram shop liability refers to the body of law governing the liability of taverns, liquor stores and other commercial establishments that serve alcoholic beverages. The laws are intended to protect the public from the hazards of serving alcohol to minors and intoxicated person. One of the most publicized cases of the last few years was the Nitesh Adusumilli et al v. Christine Miller et al. Miller was an off duty police officer who was a drunk driver. She hit another car head-on seriously injuring the driver and killing four of his friends (occupants of his car).

Miller’s blood alcohol level three hours following the crash was .169%.  Plaintiffs’ toxicologist experts would have testified that Miller’s B.A.C. levels while she was at O’Leary’s would have caused her to exhibit visible signs of high levels of intoxication.  Therefore, pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 537.053, Miller would have met the statutory definition of being a “visibly intoxicated” person.

The Illinois Liquor Control Act of 1934 is also known as the Dram Shop Act and gives any person injured by an intoxicated person the right to sue the intoxicated person, the vendor or person who sold the liquor to the intoxicated person, and the owner of the premises at which the intoxicated person became intoxicated.  If a business is responsible for causing the person to become intoxicated legally, the business owner may be liable.  This type of law is called the Dram Shop Law.

The Comptroller of the State of Illinois just released the 2011 data for the Dram Liability Limits. According to the Liquor Control Act of 1934, Section 6-21(a), the Comptroller is required to determine yearly the liability limits for causes of action brought under the Act in accordance with the consumer price index-u (CPI-U) during the preceding 12 month calendar year.

From 2003 to present, the dram shop liability limits have steadily increased. Currently, the dram shop liability limit for causes of action involving persons injured, killed, or incurring property damage on or after January 20, 2012, the judgment or recovery under the Liquor Control Act of 1934 for injury to the person or property of any person shall not exceed $52,961.47 for each person incurring damages. Also, for causes of action under the act for either loss of means of support or loss of society resulting from the death or injury of any person on or after January 20, 2012, the judgment or recovery shall not exceed $76,952.91.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States of Department of Labor, the CPI-U increased 2.96% during the preceding calendar year.

There are some considerations of the Dram Shop cases including time limitations and defenses.  It is important that these types of cases be brought within one year of the date of occurrence.  A business may defend itself by claiming what’s called complicity. Complicity is a doctrine created judicially in which a licensee may not be liable for the injuries sustained by a third party from one of the licensee’s patrons if the third party contributed to the intoxication of such patron.

Statutory limitations are the limits on the amount an injured person can recover. As state above, each year the Comptroller determines the liability limits for cases brought under the Dram Shop Act. Since the dram shop liability limits have continued to rise since 2003, it is important to contact an injury attorney if you have been involved in an accident involving an intoxicated person. An experienced St. Louis injury attorney can advise you of your options.

Zane T. Cagle of The Cagle Firm represents injured person in many kinds of accidents including motorcycle accidents, auto accidents, and truck accident. Serious injuries and death can result.   Intoxicated persons can do a lot of damage when they climb behind the wheel.  We, at The Cagle Law Firm exert great effort to help raise awareness about ways to avoid drinking and driving. The Facebook sweepstakes we conducted during the holidays is a great example of the importance of not drinking and driving at any time.

If you have been injured in an auto accident, contact Zane T. Cagle for your free consultation at (314) 276-1681.