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Missouri Dram Shop Liability

Can a tavern or bar be held liable for injuries caused by their intoxicated patrons? Missouri law provides a cause of action against a bar or tavern that sells an intoxicating beverage to a minor (under 21 years of age) or a "visibly intoxicated person," if an injury occurs as a result of that individual's intoxication.

Section 537.053, RSMo. states:

[A] cause of action may be brought by or on behalf of any person who has suffered personal injury or death against any person licensed to sell intoxicating liquor by the drink for consumption on the premises when it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the seller knew or should have known that intoxicating liquor was served to a person under the age of twenty-one years or knowingly served intoxicating liquor to a visibly intoxicated person.

The statute also provides that a person over the age of 21 years who becomes voluntarily intoxicated cannot bring a cause of action under this section for his own injuries. However, if a bar or tavern serves a person under the age of 21, the business can be held liable for any injuries that may be sustained by the minor, whether or not anyone else is hurt. 

This statute requires the case to be proven by "clear and convincing evidence," the highest standard of proof in Missouri civil cases. This heightened evidentiary requirement makes dram shop cases very difficult in Missouri. 

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