Two bars in St. Joseph are facing wrongful death lawsuits for overserving a patron who then caused a fatal car accident. The bars may be held liable under Missouri’s dram shop law, which provides an important opportunity for victims to recover the compensation they deserve.
Bars Sued for Fatal 2018 DWI Accident
Back in 2018, Roger Moe was driving over 100 miles per hour in the wrong direction on I-29. He crashed into another vehicle. A passenger in that vehicle, a 22-year-old college student, died from his injuries.
Moe was charged with driving while intoxicated, and pled guilty. Three months ago, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the fatal accident.
Missouri’s Dram Shop Laws
Missouri Statute 537.053 is the state’s “dram shop act.” Nearly all states in the U.S. have one of these laws, which allow victims to sue bars that overserve patrons, if that patron then hurts the victim. Dram shop laws are frequently invoked in the aftermath of a drunk driving accident.
A “dram shop” is an old word for a bar or tavern.
Missouri’s dram shop law allows for personal injury or wrongful death claims against these establishments. To hold them liable, victims have to show clear and convincing evidence that the bar knew or should have known that it was serving someone under the age of 21, or that the patron was visibly intoxicated.
Under Missouri’s law, someone is “visibly intoxicated” if they are so inebriated that they show a significant physical dysfunction or lack of coordination. While a patron’s subsequent blood alcohol content (BAC) reading can be used as evidence that they were visibly intoxicated, more evidence is often needed. Bartenders cannot be fired for refusing to serve someone who is visibly intoxicated.
Patrons who were themselves intoxicated and get hurt in an accident cannot use the law to hold the establishment liable, unless they were underage.
When the patron was under 21, bars can defend themselves by showing that the patron used a fake ID.
What is the Purpose of Dram Shop Laws?
Dram shop laws serve a very important role in personal injury laws. In many cases, they provide the only opportunity for innocent victims to recover compensation.
When a drunk driver hits another vehicle, the drunk driver’s car insurance company may try to deny coverage for the accident. Insurers frequently deny liability coverage for a covered person’s “intentional” acts, and many insurers claim that drunk driving crashes are intentional.
If the insurance company successfully pulls this trick off, the victim’s remaining recourse is to hold the driver personally liable. Especially in severe or fatal accidents, most drivers do not have the assets to cover the victim’s losses.
By opening up the bar or tavern to potential liability, dram shop acts give innocent victims a final source of compensation for their injuries. That potential for liability also serves as a deterrent to prevent DWI injuries.
Car Accident Lawyers at the Smith Law Office Serve St. Joseph
The personal injury and car accident lawyers at the Smith Law Office serve victims of drunk driving crashes in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, and the rest of western Missouri. Contact them online or call them at (816) 875-9373.