Kansas Dram Shop Laws and Social Host Liability for Alcohol-Related Accidents

When an intoxicated person injures someone else in Kansas, can a third party be liable for providing the alcohol?

Most U.S. states have passed some version of a law that allows an injured person to hold an alcohol vendor responsible for supplying alcohol to someone who then causes an accident. These laws are typically known as "dram shop" laws because alcohol used to be sold by a unit of measurement called a "dram." When this type of claim is against a social host who provided alcohol (at a barbeque, for instance), it's usually called a "social host liability" claim.

Here's what Kansas law says about these types of third-party liability claims for an alcohol-related accident.

Dram Shop Liability in Kansas

Every U.S. state, including Kansas, has rules that allow an injured person to seek damages directly from the person who caused his or her injuries by filing a personal injury lawsuit. However, unlike most other states, Kansas law doesn't allow an injured party to go after the business or person who provided the alcohol to the intoxicated person. In other words, the only option for the injured person is generally to sue the actual person who directly caused the injuries—the drunken person.

Here's an example of how this rule might come into play. Suppose that Dale stops at Bill's Bar on his way home from work to have a few drinks. He becomes noticeably intoxicated, but the bartender continues to serve him. At one point, Dale decides to go to the bathroom, which is located in the basement of the bar. On his way down the basement stairs, Dale trips and bumps into Patty, knocking her down the stairs and injuring her.

Under Kansas law, Patty can't seek damages against Bill's Bar for selling or serving Dale the drinks that made him intoxicated, regardless of the role that alcohol played in causing the accident. However, under Kansas law, Patty can seek damages from Dale himself for being negligent and causing the accident.

Social Host Liability in Kansas

With social host liability, it's the same story: Kansas law doesn't allow an injured person to go after a social host who provided alcohol to a guest who later causes an accident. This rule generally applies regardless of whether the guest was obviously intoxicated or a minor.

Damages in Kansas Alcohol-Related Cases

In a civil lawsuit for injuries, liability is expressed solely in terms of money damages. If an intoxicated person injures another person in Kansas, the injured person may be able to claim damages from the person who caused the injury, including compensation for losses like:

  • medical bills, including bills for emergency care, hospital care, and surgery
  • lost wages and benefits from lost time at work
  • value of lost or damaged property, and
  • pain and suffering.

But if you're thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit in Kansas, keep in mind that it typically must be brought within two years of the date of injury under the state's statute of limitations. Claims that are not filed within two years may be barred from court. However, given that every situation is different, it's always best to consult an attorney as soon as possible after suffering an injury; that way, you can be sure your rights are protected.

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