What is Iowa’s Dramshop Act?

Historically, the "Iowa Dramshop Act" (found in Iowa Code § 123.92) is a law that allows someone who has been injured by the harmful acts of an intoxicated person to sue and recover monetary damages (money) from the bar, restaurant or other licensed establishment (known as a "dramshop") that over-served the intoxicated person. A "dramshop" is an old term that describes a bar, tavern or similar commercial establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold and served.

Since 1991, Erik Luthens has personally handled multiple claims pursuant to Iowa’s Dramshop Act. In fact, Erik argued to the Iowa Supreme Court in 2015 that Iowa’s Dramshop Act should be expanded to help injured people and won on behalf of his clients. See Sanford v. Fillenwarth, 863 N.W.2d 286 (2015).

Common Iowa Dramshop Act Claims

The most common Iowa Dramshop Act claim occurs when a person is served too much alcohol at a bar and then leaves the bar while intoxicated and is involved in a car accident that injures (or kills) another person or persons. Another common dramshop claim occurs when a bar over-serves a person who subsequently attacks or assaults one or more people at a bar or outside of the bar injuring them.

Iowa Dramshop Act Liability

Liability exists under the Iowa Dramshop Act when the bar owner, liquor licensee or permittee does the following:

  1. sells and serves alcohol to an intoxicated person when the licensee or permittee knew or should have known the person was already intoxicated; or,
  2. sells and serves the person to a point where the licensee or permittee knew or should have known the person would become intoxicated; and,
  3. an innocent person was injured (personal injuries or death) or incurred a loss of support (loss of a parent, spouse, etc.) due the intoxicated person's negligent acts.

For an injured party to recover under the Iowa Dramshop Act, the injured person must establish that the intoxicated person was in fact intoxicated when the injuries occurred. A person is “intoxicated” when one or more of the following are true:

  1. the person's reason or mental ability has been affected; and/or,
  2. the person's judgment is impaired; and/or,
  3. the person's emotions are visibly excited; and/or,
  4. the person has, to any extent, lost control of bodily actions or motions.

Liability under the Dramshop 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 Iowa Dramshop Act requires the alcoholic beverages be sold and actually served for consumption on the seller's premises before Iowa Dramshop Act liability may be imposed. Therefore, you cannot sue a grocery store or gas station under Iowa’s Dramshop 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 a person injured by an intoxicated person 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 person injured by an intoxicated person may recover monetary damages (money) for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of body function and all other damages intended to compensate the injured person that are allowed under Iowa law.

Second, if the injuries suffered by the person result in death, there are wrongful death damages. The administrator or executor of the estate of an person killed by an intoxicated person can recover wrongful death damages against the bar or restaurant liable under the Iowa Dramshop Act. Consortium claims of a spouse, parent or child are also 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; accordingly, the Iowa Dramshop Act provides for joint and several liability. Where a bar or restaurant is found liable under the Iowa Dramshop 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 Dramshop Act (such as myself) AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AFTER AN ALCOHOL RELATED INCIDENT who can provide you with the assistance of filing your claim and walk you through every step of the process. You should be aware that a notice of your intent to bring an action pursuant to Iowa Dramshop Act must be served on the bar, restaurant or tavern (dramshop) no later than six (6) months after the date of the alcohol related incident. I will personally ensure that you receive the best outcome possible and receive the compensation you deserve.

Des Moines dram shop lawyer, attorney Des Moines, IA, If you have been injured by the harmful acts of an intoxicated person to sue and recover monetary damages (money) from the bar, restaurant or other licensed establishment (known as a "dramshop") that over-served the intoxicated person. law firm - If you would like to schedule a initial consultation regarding your case, please contact the Luthens Law Offices at (800) 685-7948 or complete our inquiry form.