In Missouri, anyone who is injured by a drunk person may look to a bar, restaurant or any place that serves drinks by the glass for compensation for their injuries if it is found that establishment continued to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person.  These causes of action are called Dram Shop claims and are subject to the requirements of Missouri’s Dram Shop statute (RSMo Section 537.053 (2)). This statute states in part:

“a cause of action may be brought by or on behalf of any person who has suffered personal injury or death against any person licensed to sell intoxicating liquor by the drink for consumption on the premises when it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the seller knew or should have known that intoxicating liquor was served to a person under the age of twenty-one years or knowingly served intoxicating liquor to a visibly intoxicated person.”

There are several factors that determine if a bar/restaurant may be liable for negligently selling alcohol to an intoxicated person.  For example, a jury may consider if the patron exhibited signs of visible intoxication such as stumbling, bloodshot or glassy eyes, slurred speech, aggressive or obnoxious behavior, drowsiness, clumsiness or loud, noisy speech.  Further, a jury may hear evidence about the BAC (blood alcohol content) of the intoxicated person or that the intoxicated individual is a minor or under the age of 21.

With the proper training and a proactive approach, the risk of dram shop liability claims will be greatly reduced for your small business.  Many of the solutions are cost effective and simple to implement – such as:

  • Implement and enforce a training program for employees to help identify and handle intoxicated persons;
  • Contact your state or local liquor control entities and law enforcement for training materials;
  • Do not allow employees to drink on the job;
  • Reward employees who are vigilant in checking IDs and identifying intoxicated patrons;
  • Set up an agreement with a local cab/Uber/Lyft company for intoxicated patrons to keep them from driving;
  • Make sure plenty of water is served along with each intoxicating beverages.
  • Count the number of drinks served to individuals.

Dram shop laws help keep Missouri citizens safe from drunk drivers.  Independent surveys and studies have found that alcohol related harms have been significantly reduced in states where dram shop laws were implemented according to an article in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine entitled the Effects of Dram Shop Liability and Enhanced Overservice Law Enforcement Initiatives on Excessive Alcohol Consumption and Related Harms.[1]  In this study, it was determined that there is “strong evidence of the effectiveness of dram shop laws in reducing alcohol-related harms.”

The financial burden of being faced with these lawsuits may seem disproportionate for small businesses that serve alcohol by the glass but there is also way to protect your business from a lawsuit.  There is specialty liability insurance for dram shop claims that you can purchase to protect your business against alcohol related claims. So, educate, train and purchase insurance. This results in safer communities with fewer drunk drivers and other alcohol related harms.