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Missouri Liquor Liability: Dram Shop Law

Bars and Taverns Can be Liable for Overserving Patrons

Sometimes seemingly simple cases can present difficult legal challenges.

That is what occurred in the case of a young Liberty man who was injured in a crash in February 2005. The man, who was under 21, had been drinking alcohol at a local Liberty restaurant/bar. The bar owner had been drinking with him and both were intoxicated. The owner and the man left with the owner driving the man's vehicle. The owner crashed the car within a few minutes of leaving the parking lot. The young man was seriously injured, suffering multiple fractures in his spine that required the surgical placement of a steel rod in his back.

The bar had the largest insurance policy, however, the bar's insurance company initially denied coverage for the accident based on exclusions in the insurance contract. In fact, the insurance company filed its own lawsuit asking the court to declare there was no coverage for the accident. However, Missouri has a Dram Shop law that sets forth certain situations in which a bar or tavern owner is liable for injuries resulting from an automobile accident, when a patron is overserved and is visibly in toxicated or if the patron was a minor.

In this case, Nash &Franciskato forced the insurance company to admit that there was coverage and drop that lawsuit. Nash &Franciskato then showed that the bar had a pattern of serving underage drinkers that directly led to the automobile accident. After more than two years of litigating the case, the various insurance companies agreed to pay the injured man a total of $725,000.

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