Bar Responsibility

What is Iowa’s Dram Shop Act?

The Iowa Dram Shop Act is a law that allows someone who has been injured by an intoxicated person to sue and recover monetary damaged from the bar, restaurant or other license establishment who served the intoxicated person the alcohol.  The most common Iowa Dram Shop claim is when a person is served too much alcohol at a bar, then leaves the bar while too intoxicated, and subsequently is involved in a car accident that injures another person.  Another common Iowa Dram Shop claim is when a drunk bar patron attacks or assaults one or more people at a bar or outside of the bar.   Liability exists under the Dram Shop Act when the bar owner, liquor licensee or permittee does either of the following:

  • Sells and serves alcohol to an intoxicated person when the licensee or permittee knew or should have known the person was intoxicated;  OR
  • Sells and serves the person to a point where the licensee or permittee knew or should   have known the person would become intoxicated. 
  • And; The injured party plaintiff was injured in person, property or means of support by the patron while the patron was intoxicated or as a result of the patron's intoxication. 

In addition, for an injured party to recover under the Dram Shop Act, the injured party must establish that the patron of the Dram Shop was intoxicated.  A person is “intoxicated” when one or more of the following are true: (1) the person's reason or mental ability has been affected; (2) the person's judgment is impaired; (3) the person's emotions are visibly excited; and (4) the person has, to any extent, lost control of bodily actions or motions. 

Who is liable under Iowa’s Dram Shop Act?

Liability under the Dram Shop Act is limited to licensees and permittees. That means that there are limitations upon who you can sue. The bar or other drinking establishment including restaurants must have a license to serve alcohol.  The “sell and serve” language of the Dram Shop Act requires the alcoholic beverages be sold and actually served for consumption on the seller's premises before Dram Shop liability may be imposed.  Therefore, you cannot sue a grocery store or gas station under Iowa’s Dram Shop Act because neither grocery stores nor gas stations have licenses to actually serve alcohol for consumption on premises, rather they merely sell alcohol. 

What can I recover?

Many people who have been injured by an intoxicated person may not know the scope of the damages they may recover.  The following is a brief overview of the possible damages an injured person may recover.  First and most importantly are damages known as personal injury. A personal injury plaintiff may receive damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of body function and all other damages intended to compensate the injured party allowed under law. Second, if the injuries suffered by the party result in death, there are Wrongful Death Damages. The administrator or executor of the estate of an individual killed by an intoxicated person can recover wrongful death damages against the bar or restaurant liable under the Dram Shop Act. Consortium claims of a spouse, parent or child are recoverable.  These are damages intended to compensate those related to the injured party for the loss of “intangible” benefits of the relationship with the injured or deceased party.

It is also possible that there may be more than one bar or restaurant liable for the injuries or death of the party and therefore the Iowa Dram Shop Act provides for Joint and Several Liability. Where a bar or restaurant is found liable under the Dram Shop Act, that licensee may be held jointly and severally liable for damages for other liable licensees or permittees. 

What should I do if myself or a family member has been injured by an intoxicated person?

The first and most important thing you can do is talk to a lawyer who is knowledgeable about Iowa’s Dram Shop Act and can provide you with the assistance of filing your claim and walk you through every step of the process.  We will work to ensure that you receive the best outcome possible and receive the compensation you deserve.  

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