Heyl Royster




Liquor liability in Illinois is a unique practice area, one in which relatively few attorneys regularly practice. It requires specialized knowledge of the history and purpose of the Illinois Liquor Control Act, as well as the exceptions and available defenses. In addition, alternate theories of liability exist outside of strict liability under the Act. Having experienced attorneys who understand this area of the law is essential to protecting the rights of those in the liquor and restaurant industries, as well as the rights of non-commercial suppliers of alcoholic beverages, social hosts, manufacturers and suppliers of dispensing equipment, and their insurance carriers.

Liquor liability was unknown at common law in Illinois. However, with Section 6-21 of the Liquor Control Act of 1934 (commonly known as the Illinois Dram Shop Act, 235 ILCS 5/6-21) the Illinois legislature created a cause of action in favor of those injured by an intoxicated person. This legislation gives a potential statutory cause of action to an injured party and/or members of the party's family against a liquor licensee in the business of selling alcohol, or against any person or entity that owns, rents, leases or permits occupation of a building or premises with knowledge that alcohol will be sold therein.

Our firm's Liquor Liability Practice Team does not only deal with potential liability under the Illinois Liquor Control Act.  Many businesses and organizations, whether traditionally liquor-related or not, face other potential liabilities that could come under the umbrella of "liquor liability," but do not fall strictly under the Illinois Liquor Control Act. Restaurants, taverns and other businesses at which liquor may be sold have other risks closely associated with the presence of alcoholic liquors. For example, persons injured on the premises by the criminal acts of third parties who may have consumed alcoholic liquors, but are not intoxicated, such that there is no liability under the Illinois Liquor Control Act. Even businesses which sponsor events at which liquor is provided, but not sold, and not-for profit organizations performing fundraising where alcohol is involved, have liquor liability issues and risks. In such cases, the issue of whether a separate legal duty apart from that under the Illinois Liquor Control Act exists on the part of the liquor licensee, premises owner, business or not-for profit organization is of paramount consideration, and a potential complete defense to any cause of action brought by an injured person or parties.

Heyl Royster's Liquor Liability Practice Team has extensive experience defending clients involved in or associated with the liquor and restaurant industries.

Representative Clients

Allied Insurance Group

Capitol Indemnity Corporation

Cincinnati Insurance Company

CNA Insurance Company

Illinois Insurance Guaranty Fund

K & K Insurance Group, Inc.

Liberty Mutual Insurance Company

McLarens Young International

Northland Insurance Group

Significant Cases

  • Stephanie L. Edwards-White v. Stu Andrews, (Stuart Andrews) d/b/a Andrews Lounge Dram Shop, Knox County. Plaintiff, a 31-year-old nurse's aide, claimed a man allegedly became intoxicated from drinking at the insured's tavern; and, during a scuffle in the parking lot of the insured's premises, forcefully pushed her down, fracturing her ankle. Defendant admitted the allegedly intoxicated person drank in his bar for hours, but denied causing intoxication. Defendant also raised an affirmative defense of provocation, claiming that plaintiff provoked the alleged intoxicated person by engaging in fighting words with, and perhaps pushing, the girlfriend of the allegedly intoxicated person. Plaintiff denied this, and claimed the allegedly intoxicated person later apologized to her for breaking her ankle. Plaintiff's ankle fracture required an open reduction and internal fixation under general anesthesia, with placement of permanent hardware and a syndesmotic screw across the ankle mortise, which was later removed in a second procedure also under general anesthesia. Plaintiff claimed permanent injuries and disability as well as medical specials, wage loss, and pain and suffering. Result: Not guilty.
  • Reed for Use and Benefit of Reed v. Fleming 132 Ill. App. 3d 722 (3d Dist. 1985) Issue of whether proximate cause between drinking of alcoholic beverages and auto crash can ever be established in single car, un-witnessed accident where driver is deceased and there exist no facts to show why car left roadway while negotiating a turn.


  • "Liquor Liability: Social Hosts and Other Issues," 26th Annual Claims Handling Seminar (2011) - Download Article