Al J. Smith


Following the repeal of the Missouri Dramshop Act in 1934, Missouri courts did not recognize a civil cause of action against a supplier of alcohol for injuries suffered by a third person that were caused by an intoxicated person. For many decades, a supplier of alcohol was immune from any liability. Gradually, as society took notice of the dangers created by intoxicated drivers, various courts began chipping away at this common law immunity. Jurisdictions across the country began imposing liability against commercial vendors of alcohol for the injuries caused by intoxicated patrons. In the early 1980s, the Missouri courts first recognized a cause of action against tavern owners. Currently, under the law of Missouri and a great majority of other states, a commercial vendor is liable for injuries sustained by a third party caused by an intoxicated person if the vendor sold intoxicating liquor to a visibly intoxicated person or minor. In recent years, many jurisdictions have expanded this liability to inelude not only commercial vendors, but social hosts as well. Despite this trend, however, Missouri has consistently failed to recognize a civil cause of action against social hosts for injuries caused by their intoxicated guests. In Ritchie v. Goodman, the Court of Appeals for the Southern District of Missouri, following case law from the early 1980s, refused to expand civil liability to social hosts for furnishing alcohol to minors. This Note argues that the Ritchie decision provides inadequate compensation for innocent victims of intoxicated minor drivers and does nothing to deter the threat caused by underage drunk driving.

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