Dram Shop Law and Drunk Driving Liability
Drunk driving collisions occur almost daily in Missouri and Kansas. Drunk driving is inexcusable and the resulting injuries from drunk driving collisions are some of the most severe. In 2008 about 41% of fatal accidents in Kansas involved alcohol and about 38% in Missouri.
Who is responsible for the drunk driver that causes bodily injury or death to another? The obvious answer is the drunk driver, but what about the establishment or person who served alcohol to that drunk driver? This is the question that dram shop laws try to answer. Dram shop laws refer to the liability of a tavern, restaurant or other business, or even a social host, that sells or gives liquor to an obviously intoxicated person or a minor who then causes harm to another. Interestingly, dram shop laws vary widely by state, and there are several states that do not currently have any standing dram shop laws.
A Case for Dram Shop Law
One of the more famous dram shop law cases involves a young girl, Antonia Verni, who was struck by a drunk driver. Two-year-old Antonia suffered a broken neck and was left a quadriplegic. The drunk driver, Daniel Lanzaro, had been at a New York Giants football game and throughout the day had consumed about 16 beers. Police found his blood alcohol level at .266, nearly three times the legal limit. It was also discovered that the concessionaire at Giants Stadium, Aramark, allowed Lanzaro to purchase six 16-ounce beers at halftime alone. The policy at Giants Stadium is not only to not serve inebriated customers, but to have a two-beer limit at all times. Lanzaro apparently gave the bartender a $10 tip and was allowed to purchase the six beers. Following the game Lanzaro continued his drinking binge and later struck the Verni family vehicle head-on. In January 2005, the New Jersey Superior Court ordered Aramark to pay $75 million in punitive damages for “willful and wanton” disregard for public safety for serving Lanzaro despite his inebriated state. The award came two days after the jury held Aramark and Lanzaro equally responsible for $60 million in compensatory damages.
Potential Evidence for Dram Shop Cases
Plaintiff’s attorneys have noted some of the most powerful evidence in dram shop cases is direct evidence of the bar, restaurant, or other business’ service of alcohol to the intoxicated customer. Here are some questions that can elicit important information about the bar, restaurant or other business serving the alcohol:
  • Does the bar encourage the sale of alcohol?
  • What are the drink specials, and do they encourage people to drink more or bring in bigger crowds?
  • Do large crowds make it more difficult to monitor for signs of visible intoxication?
  • Are servers trained to keep track of the number of drinks a patron consumes or to establish a baseline for a patron’s behavior before the first drink is served?
  • Does the bar enforce a drink limit, and if so, are customers permitted to drink more if they are not driving?
  • Has the establishment ever served a customer who appeared intoxicated?
  • Has the establishment ever had to cut off a customer from service? If so, how often and what is the procedure? If a flag book or log kept, in which individuals are flagged for drinking too much, fighting, or failing to pay bar tabs?
Drunk Driving Statistics for the United States
  • Alcohol-related car crashes kill someone every 45 minutes and injure someone every two minutes.
  • In the United States, drunk driving is the leading criminal cause of death.
  • More than 17,000 people are the victims of drunk driving accidents every year.
  • Approximately 40% of all motor-vehicle fatalities are alcohol-related.
  • Frequent drunk drivers are responsible for almost 60% of alcohol-related fatalities.
  • In 2007, drivers between the ages of 16-20 were involved in 1,719 drunk driving accidents.
  • 38% of all Christmas-time car accident deaths and 54% of all New Year’s car accident deaths are alcohol-related.
  • Approximately 17% of drunk drivers injured in car accidents are charged and convicted, 11% are charged and not convicted, and 72% are never charged.
  • Drunk driving accidents cost the public around $114.3 billion a year.
  • About one-third of people arrested for drunk driving are repeat offenders.

Have You Been Injured By A Drunk Driver?

If you've been injured by a drunk driver you need to speak with an experienced drunk driving victim attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.

James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.