In Missouri, if a bar or commercial establishment that serves alcohol to a “visibility intoxicated” patron, that business could be liable for injuries caused by that person in a drunk driving accident. They are not responsible for injuries to the drunk driver, but injuries caused by the drunk driver to other people. See Missouri Dram Shop Laws.
What about “social host liability” which is liability of a private homeowner for serving alcohol to their guests? This issue comes up frequently in situations where parents or homeowners allow teenagers to party at their house, consume alcohol, and then they hurt themselves or others because they are intoxicated. It also comes up in college fraternity situations or parties where private entities provide alcohol. Social Host Liability is a difficult claim to prevail on. Under Missouri law a Plaintiff must show:
- a civil duty not to furnish someone with intoxicating liquor;
- breach of that duty; and
- the furnishing of alcoholic beverages to an individual was the proximate cause of their death or injury to someone else.
Requirement #1 makes it impossible under Missouri’s current law to make a claim civil against individuals that provide alcohol to someone while at their house, including people that provide alcohol to minors and allow them to drink at their home. In Missouri there is no civil duty to not provide alcohol to someone. There is a criminal law against it, but it does not impose a civil duty. The Missouri Supreme Court addressed this issue in Andres v. Alpha Kappa Lambda Fraternity, 730 S.W.2d 547, 550 (Mo. banc 1987).
In Andres, the plaintiffs were the surviving parents of a fraternity member who was a minor and had been provided alcohol by the defendant fraternity at a “mixer” it hosted, and died as the result of acute alcohol intoxication. Id. at 548-49. The parents brought suit against the fraternity. Our Supreme Court concluded that “it was unlawful [under Section 311.310] for the Local [fraternity] to provide alcoholic beverages to those under twenty-one years of age who attended the mixer.” Id. at 550. However, the Court went on to state that “neither Section 311.310 nor the principles of common law negligence imposed a duty upon the defendant [fraternity brothers] to abstain from furnishing alcoholic beverages to an individual under twenty-one years of age.” Id. at 553. Therefore, the parents “failed to state a claim for relief against the Local [fraternity].”
This essentially closed the case for a social host liability lawsuit in Missouri. Dram Shop cases for injury liability against bars and other businesses that serve alcohol are still allowed in Missouri. Our car accident lawyers in St. Louis are experienced at investigating injury and death cases caused by drunk drivers and finding all responsible parties that there is a viable legal claim against.
Oftentimes in these tragic cases the drunk driver did not have a valid license or insurance therefore, unless the injured party had good uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage, claims for compensation can be limited by low insurance coverage. It is important to find all existing insurance that may apply.