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Illinois Dramshop Act And DUI Liability

A case from downstate illustrates how drunk driving is not just the responsibility of those doing the drinking and driving, but also those serving the drinks (News-Democrat).

A Jersey County jury awarded the family of a woman killed in a motorcycle accident $549,954 in accordance with Illinois' Dramshop Act, which holds bars (or liquor stores) responsible for not cutting off patrons who have had too much to drink and then operate a motor vehicle.

Awards for damages under the Illinois Dramshop Act are limited (although the jury was not told about this), so the half-million-dollar award will be reduced to little over $100,000.

In this case, 19-year-old Jerica Klocke died after sustaining serious injuries from a motorcycle accident. She was on the back of a motorcycle driven by 24-year-old Donald Adcock, who died on the scene. Adcock became intoxicated after drinking at Thirsty's Tavern and Bawana's Nutwood Tavern, according to the article.

He reportedly did not "appear" drunk, according to witnesses, but toxicology reports showed a blood alcohol level of 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit, when he died. Klocke's report showed no alcohol in her system.

The jury deliberated for four hours before returning with the verdict of liability: $500,000 for loss of relationship and $49,954.11 for medical and funeral bills (which, as stated above, will be reduced).

It's not clear to what extent bar owners and employees must monitor the drinking of every patron, but they are to some extend liable for the potential ill-effects of their sales. Let's look at the law. Plaintiffs invoking the Dramshop Act must be able to show:

  1. Proof of sale of alcohol to the patron
  2. Injuries sustained by the patron
  3. Proximate cause between the alcohol sale and intoxication
  4. Intoxication was at least one cause of the third-party damages

Unlike Dramshop laws in some other states, there is no burden of proof to show that the liquor store or bar sold alcohol to someone who already was intoxicated, which is the intent of the law.