Articles Posted in Dram Shop & Tavernkeeper Liability

The Illinois Supreme Court recently clarified social host liability in Illinois in the decision of Bell v. Hutsell. The case explains how personal injury or negligence claims can arise in social host situations. These claims may include car accidents. Generally, a social host of a party where alcohol is served is not liable for injuries caused by persons who consume alcohol and thereafter cause injuries to third persons. However, under a voluntary undertaking theory, if a social host undertakes an act, then they may be civilly liable if they perform that act negligently. As an example, a parent who allows their minor child to have a party at their residence and undertakes to prevent minors from consuming alcohol, such as confiscating liquor, may be liable if an intoxicated person subsequently injures a third person.

In the case of Bell v. Hutsell, Daniel Bell, an 18-year-old, attended a party hosted by the Defendants’ son, Jonathon, and allegedly consumed alcohol at said party. In the complaint, the Plaintiff alleged the Hutsells were aware of underage consumption at the house, that their son, Jonathon, had previously pled guilty to underage consumption, that underagers drank excessive amounts of alcohol within the presence of the Hutsells without any objection, and that Jerry Hutsell had spoke to a number of underage parties who had been drinking alcohol and requested that if they had drank, then not to drive. The Complaint further alleged that after consuming alcohol at the Hutsell residence Daniel Bell died in a single-car accident when his vehicle collided with a tree.
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Under the Illinois Liquor Control Act (“Dram Shop Act”), third parties who are injured by an intoxicated person may have a cause of action for damages against the seller of alcoholic liquor, who by selling or giving alcoholic liquor, causes the intoxication of such person. In many cases, the Act provides a remedy to individuals who are innocent victims injured in car accidents and bar fights. The Act provides no remedy for intoxicated persons who themselves are injured.

The amount of damages that may be sought against a bar or restaurant under the Act is limited in amount by statute and is specified by year.