For all of you bar and restaurant owners out there – this one’s for you!
The plaintiff was the Estate of a minor who died in a one-vehicle motorcycle accident and he was intoxicated at the time of the accident. The plaintiff alleged the minor went to four different bars prior to the accident.
Pursuant to the Illinois Dram Shop Act (235 ILCS 5/6-21), the alleged intoxicated person cannot sue the bars that caused his intoxication that allegedly led to his injuries. In addition, the legislature’s adoption of the Dram Shop Act created a limited and exclusive statutory cause of action by imposing a form of no-fault liability upon dram shops for selling or giving intoxicating liquors to persons. Through its passage and continual amendment of the Dram Shop Act, the Illinois legislature has preempted the entire field of alcohol-related liability.
In extremely rare and very few instances, Illinois courts have allowed negligence claims to be asserted against a bar. Prior to filing suit, Plaintiff’s counsel contacted each of the insurance carriers for the bars and threatened to make new law by filing such a negligence complaint. One of the carriers caved and settled but two of them did not. (The fourth bar was defaulted).
Myself and and another bar’s attorney (thanks to the cojones of our clients!) filed a Section 2-615 motion to dismiss the complaint. We argued the plaintiff did not assert sufficient facts to support a negligence claim. As the Illinois Supreme Court made clear in Simmons v. Homatas, 236 Ill.2d 459 (2010), special circumstances are required to allow negligence allegations to be asserted against a bar where intoxication and the consumption of alcohol is involved. One of the primary issues in our case was that the plaintiff did not allege any purposeful or intentional acts by any bar employees that led to the minor’s death.
A judge in Tazewell County (10th Judicial Circuit) agreed with the defendants arguments and dismissed the plaintiff’s case with prejudice. Even though the plaintiff’s attorney made multiple threats at an appeal to try and again force a settlement, no appeal was filed and the case was closed without any settlement being paid by either of the two bars.
Lesson Learned – The louder and more aggressively a plaintiff’s attorney threatens and yells, the more likely your defense position is strong. Cheers!