Written by attorney John Joseph Malm

Dram shop and Tavern-keeper Lability

Dramshop and Tavern Keeper Liability

Intoxicated people behave in ways that make us unsafe. When injuries have resulted from the careless or intentional actions of an intoxicated person, the bar or tavern that served the intoxicated individual may be liable for damages, including medical expenses and pain and suffering. There are two types of liability claims that can arise against bars and taverns: (1) Dramshop liability, or claims based on applicable Illinois statute; and (2) tavern keeper/innkeeper liability claims, or negligence claims which are based on the common law.

Dramshop Liability.

Under the Illinois Dramshop Act, 235 ILCS 5/6-21, a person who is injured by an intoxicated person has a right of action against the seller of alcoholic liquor, who by selling or giving alcoholic liquor, causes the intoxication of such person. The amount of damages that may be sought under the Act is limited in amount by statute. There is a one-year statute of limitations governing claims brought under the Illinois Dramshop Act; claims not commenced within one year after the date the cause of action accrued shall be barred. 235 ILC 5/6-21.

In every dramshop case, the defendant may be entitled to assert certain defenses, including “provocation" (that plaintiff’s injuries from a fight or altercation are due, in part, to an act of provocation on his own part), “complicity" (that persons actively contributing to the intoxication of the enebriate may not bring a claim) and “extra- territoriality" (that alcohol was consumed outside of the State of Illinois).

Tavern Keeper or Innkeeper Liability: a high duty of care.

Someone injured by quarrelsome, disorderly, or vicious persons inside a bar tavern may have a claim against the owner if he fails to protect against the misconduct of such persons. Under Illinois Common Law (the law handed down by our Courts, rather than our legislature), a patron of a tavern may have a claim for liability against the tavern owner when the owner carelessly permits quarrelsome, disorderly, or vicious persons into the bar. A tavern keeper, or “innkeeper," has a high duty of care owed to patrons inside the tavern, in a way that members of the general public do not. Illinois has adopted Section 314(a) of the Second Restatement of Torts, which provides that there is “an obligation to take reasonable affirmative action to protect against the misconduct of third parties, and to give aid."

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