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DRAMSHOP LIABILITY AND SOCIAL HOSTS 


     A good time may go too far.  As we know, intoxicated individuals can cause all kinds of mayhem including property damage, violence, injuries and more.  Although it is generally recognized that the intoxicated person is responsible for his or her actions, there are occasions when a third party who served the individual can be liable for damages.  These instances are addressed in the Iowa Dram Shop Act.

     The Iowa Supreme Court has observed that the dram shop act created liability where none existed at common law.  The dram shop act is found at Iowa Code Chapter 123.92.

     Licensees and Permittees.  Simply stated, Iowa Code 123.92(1)(a) provides that a third party who is injured by an intoxicated person has a right of action for damages against any licensee or permittee who sold or served any alcoholic beverage directly to the intoxicated person, provided that the person was visibly intoxicated at the time of the sale or service.

     Notice Requirement.  Iowa Code 123.93 requires an injured person give written notice to the licensee or permittee (or insurance carrier) within six months, including details about the incident.  The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld this requirement for filing an action.        

     Social Hosts.  A different rule applies to “social hosts.”  Iowa Code Chapter 123.49 provides that a person shall not sell, dispense, or give to an intoxicated person, or one simulating intoxication, any alcoholic beverage.  However, 123.49(a) provides that for those not required to hold a license or permit who dispenses or gives an alcoholic beverage in violation of this subsection is not civilly liable to an injured person as a result of intoxication by the consumer of the alcoholic beverage.  The code provision adds that it is the consumption, rather than the serving of alcoholic beverages which is the proximate cause of injury inflicted by the intoxicated person.

     Exception.  Underage Drinking.  Although the law gives fairly broad immunity to social hosts, there appears to be an exception for providing alcohol to minors.  Iowa Code 123.02(3)(a) provides that a person injured by an intoxicated person who is under legal age, has a right of action for damages against a person who is not a licensee and who dispensed or gave any alcoholic beverage to the intoxicated underage person.  For liability to exist, it is required that the person who provided the alcohol knew or should have known the underage person was intoxicated or would become intoxicated.

     The dram shop law reflects our commonly held values that innocent persons should be protected from intoxicated offenders.  However, persons who host social events should not be responsible for actions of their visitors. The law also incorporates society’s disapproval of providing alcohol to minors. 

    

    

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