If you were injured in an accident involving a drunk driver, you may be able to sue liable parties other than the drunk driver. In Missouri, dram shop laws allow victims to sue establishments selling liquor to a visibly intoxicated person if that person went on to cause a drunk driving accident.

What Is Missouri’s Dram Shop Law?

The dram shop law in Missouri can be used to seek compensation from businesses such as bars that have knowingly served intoxicating liquor to someone who causes a personal injury accident. To use the Missouri Dram Shop Act as part of your personal injury lawsuit, your lawyer will need to establish that the commercial establishment sold alcoholic beverages to someone under the age of 21 or someone who was already visibly intoxicated.

Which Establishments Qualify as a Dram Shop?

In Missouri, not every establishment that sells alcoholic beverages can be considered a dram shop. For the purposes of dram shop cases, only establishments that are licensed alcohol vendors or owned by a person licensed to sell alcohol can be considered liable for an accident involving an intoxicated person.


The main establishments that qualify for liability in personal injury cases include bars, restaurants, and taverns. These vendors must be licensed to sell intoxicating liquor that is consumed on the premises. Because these vendors sell alcohol on the premises, they generally have the right – and responsibility – to refuse service to people who are already visibly intoxicated. To sell alcoholic beverages to someone with visible intoxication can be considered negligent.

Which Establishments Do Not Qualify?

Some businesses may sell alcoholic beverages that are not meant for consumption on the premises, such as liquor stores and convenience stores. If an establishment is licensed to sell packaged alcohol and someone gets into a drunk driving accident after purchasing the alcoholic beverage, there may not be enough convincing evidence to hold the business liable for the injuries and damages of the victim.

People who serve alcohol at a social function, such as a house party, are also not held to dram shop liability. Instead, other laws regarding serving alcohol to minors at private functions may be used instead of dram shop laws.


Can You Always Enact Dram Shop Liability?

In many cases, even if you believe an establishment was negligent in furnishing alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person and this action means you suffered personal injury, you may not be able to use Missouri’s dram shop laws to sue the establishment. There are some rules in dram shop law that may prohibit dram shop liability. If there is evidence that an establishment made an effort to provide non-alcoholic beverages, this can demonstrate the establishment is not negligent.

Under Missouri law, merely serving alcohol does not qualify for proximate cause to prove that the establishment is responsible for any injuries or damages caused by the intoxicated person. However, if the intoxicated person is under the age of 21 and the person’s voluntary intoxication causes damages, relevant evidence can be used to prove dram shop liability.

What Does Visibly Intoxicated Mean?

According to Missouri dram shop law, a visibly intoxicated person is someone who shows great impairment, such as a significantly uncoordinated physical action after being served alcohol. An intoxicated person may include someone who is slurring their speech or shows significant physical dysfunction, such as poor motor skills, to such an extent that operating a motor vehicle would obviously be unsafe.

Sometimes, intoxicated persons can be identified by that person’s blood alcohol content, which may be collected as evidence after a car accident. However, blood alcohol content alone does not constitute prima facie (“at first sight” in Latin) evidence for dram shop claims. If a person’s intoxication is very high, and they get into an accident, they may be punished with a suspended driver’s license, as well as other penalties (e.g., jail time).

How Can You Prove a Licensed Alcohol Vendor Is Liable?

In Missouri, the standard to meet the qualifications of a dram shop claim is much higher than in other states. Missouri’s dram shop law states that there must be “clear and convincing evidence” that the establishment knowingly sold the intoxicating liquor to someone who caused personal injuries.

For example, the owner of a bar may be held liable if his or her employee sold alcoholic drinks to someone showing significantly uncoordinated physical action or significant physical dysfunction. Instead of cutting the person off to prevent more alcohol consumption on the premises, the barkeeper continued to serve alcohol. This can make the commercial establishment liable for any drunk driving crashes.

Was Liquor Sold After Verifying the Age of the Consumer?

Sometimes, an experienced lawyer can prove relative fault and hold an establishment liable for an accident if there is proof that alcohol was served to someone under the age of 21.

To sell alcoholic beverages in Kansas City, bars and other establishments must be shown genuine driver’s licenses or a federal personal identification card to prove that the consumer is not a minor. Failure to obtain evidence of age before selling alcohol can be considered negligent.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Missouri Dram Shop Laws?

In Missouri, the statute of limitations for filing a claim with a dram shop law is five years from the date of the injury or accident. This case must be filed in civil court within five years, or victims will forfeit the right to seek compensation for damages under the Missouri dram shop law. You should contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to start gathering evidence for your case.

If you have been involved in a drunk driving accident, then you may be able to recover compensation from the bar or tavern that sold alcohol to the intoxicated driver. Your lawyer will need to prove proximate cause in your case to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the commercial establishment selling alcohol is partly to blame for your injuries and damages. 

Reach out to Holman Schiavone, LLC at 816-399-5149 for a free case evaluation today.