Dram shop laws save lives. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), dram shop liability laws are responsible for a 5.8% drop in fatal crashes and reduce alcohol-related car accidents overall. So, why doesn’t Kansas have them? The answer mostly comes down to the state’s history with prohibition and a hospitality industry set on regulating itself.
NO BARS AND TAVERNS, NO DRAM SHOP LAWS
According to The Topeka Capital-Journal, Kansas had a dram shop act until 1949. The act was repealed with an overhaul of the state’s liquor code, which essentially got rid of bars and taverns. Without institutions that served alcohol, there was no need for a dram shop act, but the legislation did not return with easing liquor laws.
While Kansas has “some of the most stringent laws on alcohol sales in the country,” they do not have any form of dram shop liability.
Critics of dram shops argue that they decrease personal responsibility but holding an over-serving establishment responsible for its actions does not mean drunk drivers do not face consequences. Rather, dram shop laws encourage everyone to think twice about their actions and promote personal responsibility for both drivers and the hospitality industry.
Nevertheless, members of the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association argue:
“We take personal responsibility when it comes to drinking and driving very seriously.”
In Kansas, the hospitality issue claims it is tackling alcohol issues already, in part with robust training.
“I don’t think anybody is out there not wanting to protect both public interest and their business,” explains the Hospitality Association President.
Still, this line of thinking is flawed because if people didn’t need an incentive to do the right thing, drinking and driving would not need to be against the law. Drunk drivers face penalties – why shouldn’t the establishments that serve minors or obviously intoxicated individuals?
WHY KANSAS STILL NEEDS DRAM SHOP LAWS
The majority of states have dram shop laws for both vendors and social hosts who serve minors or intoxicated adults. Kansas is one of 7 states that doesn’t, and drunk driving victims keep coming forward. In 1980, a victim filed suit against a liquor store owner after a drunk minor crashed into their car on the side of the road, but the victim had no legal recourse. More recently, in 2019, a 23-year-old was not able to recover from 2 establishments that over-served a drunk driver. This victim spent 21 days in a medically induced coma and 3 months rehabbing from 9 broken ribs, compound fractures in both his legs, and a collapsed lung.
The drunk driver was sentenced to 31 months in prison, but the Kansas Supreme Court upheld legal precedent and did not assign liability to the establishments that over-served the driver. Advocates now hope that lawmakers will make the change by introducing a new dram shop bill, especially in light of the high-profile drunk driving case involving Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop. Although no one got hurt, “Suellentrop had a blood alcohol level over twice the legal limit when he allegedly drove the wrong way on Interstate 70.”
If both drivers and vendors faced consequences, fewer people would make it onto the road with that much alcohol in their system. That’s why Kansas still needs dram shop laws.
INJURED BY A DRUNK DRIVER?
Kansas may not have dram shop laws, but that does not mean you can’t recover compensation after a drunk driving accident. If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver, discuss your legal options with Sanders.Law. We make our community safer one case at a time by providing attentive, personalized legal services to every client we represent.
We are also available 24/7 to accept your call, so don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation today.
Call us at (816) 844-6938 or contact us online to get started now.