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Illinois Dram Shop Law

A "dram" is a small amount of liquid that also used to be a typical measure used in liquor sales. While the term has fallen out of widespread use, most states still have Dram Shop laws that establish rules and liability related to the sale of alcohol. Illinois' Dram Shop Act, officially known as the Illinois Liquor Control Act was passed in 1934 and has been updated many times over the years. Illinois' law is wide reaching and holds bars, liquor stores and other venues that provide alcohol for profit responsible when an intoxicated adult or minor served in their establishment causes injury or property damage to others.

Any business that served a minor or intoxicated patron can be held liable, even if they were not the last bar visited. The business will have to pay for the injured party's damages when the injured party can prove that (1) the intoxicated patron bought liquor from the business, (2) the patron was injured, (3) the liquor sale caused the patron's intoxication (proximate cause), and (4) intoxication was at least one cause of the party's injuries or property damage. In reality though, these cases are usually only successful when you can show that a bar or other establishment "over-served" someone.

The Dram Shop Act does set several limitations on the liability of businesses. The injured party has only one year to bring their lawsuit. Also, the amount of monetary damages must be within boundaries set by the Act and are much less than you can recover against another defendant like the driver of a car. In addition, the Dram Shop Act only applies to injuries that occur in Illinois; this is true even if the intoxicated patron drank in Illinois and lives in Illinois but caused the injury elsewhere. Finally, it is important to note that the Dram Shop Act does not relate to lawsuits against the intoxicated patron or any other relevant parties. Lawsuits can be brought against the establishment that served the intoxicated patron, under the Dram Shop Act, and also against the patron or others.

The Illinois Dram Shop Act holds businesses liable for selling liquor to minors and for injury or damage to others caused by minors; minors are defined as individuals under the age of 21. The rules and limitations discussed above also apply to minors.

A business can defend itself against a Dram Shop action involving a minor by showing that the business relied on proof of age provided by the minor. Illinois permits three types of identification to be used for proof of age: any identification issued by a federal, state or municipal government, including a valid driver's license, a Federal Selective Service Act registration certificate, or an Armed Forces identification card. If the business properly checked an ID and reasonably believed the minor was actually an adult, they can generally avoid paying damages.

Finally, the Dram Shop Act does not apply to individuals who provide alcohol to guests in their home. These individuals are not responsible for injuries or damages caused by their guests. Under the Dram Shop Act, this is also true for minors who are served alcohol in the home. In other words, if you are over-served by someone at their house and injured or a minor who obtained alcohol from an adult and get injured there are no financial limits as to what you can recover.

Whether you have been injured by an intoxicated person or your establishment is facing a lawsuit, it is important to speak with an Illinois lawyer who has a proven record in Dram Shop Act litigation to consider your options. For assistance finding this type of lawyer, please call us at (312) 346-5320 or (800) 517-1614 or fill out our contact us form and we will contact you.


Since 2001 illinoislawyers.com has been the leading resource for Illinois dram shop lawyer referrals. We help throughout Illinois including the communities of Chicago, Waukegan, Aurora, Schaumburg, Peoria, Urbana, Belleville, Wheaton, Rockford and Naperville. See for yourself why access to our site is like having an attorney in the family.