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Defenses and Exceptions to Dram Shop Actions
Timothy Shay

Under the Illinois Liquor Control Act (also known as the Illinois Dram Shop Act), a person can seek recovery for personal injury, property damage, and either loss of means of support or loss of society, when applicable.  However, the injury must occur in the State of Illinois for a person to bring a cause of action under the Illinois Liquor Control Act. Although the injury must occur within Illinois, a sale of liquor outside of Illinois causing injury within Illinois is also actionable under the Illinois Liquor Control Act.


There are some exceptions under the Illinois Liquor Control Act. Persons injured as a result of their own intoxication cannot bring a cause of action under the Act. Further, as the Act is not predicated on negligence, contributory negligence is not a defense. Further, comparative fault is not recognized in a dram shop action.

Keep in mind that there are also statutory limitations on the amount recoverable under the Act.

Additionally, dram shop actions have two defenses, complicity, and provocation. A complicity defense bars an injured person from bringing a cause of action under the Act when they actively contributed to the intoxication of the patron who caused the injuries. A provocation defense bars a person whose injuries resulted from the provocation of an intoxicated person from bringing a cause of action under the Act. An example of this would be where a person sustained injuries from a fight or altercation caused in part by his own acts of provocation of the intoxicated patron. However, some Illinois courts have held that mere words and gestures are insufficient for a provocation defense.