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Eugene Nassif

In every state in the USA, if you’ve been injured by someone who is intoxicated, you can bring a personal injury claim against them. In addition, some states, including Iowa, have laws that also allow a person who has been injured by an intoxicated person to bring a claim against the alcohol vendor or person who provided the alcohol.  


In this article, we discuss these laws, called dram shop and social host liabilities, and cover questions including: 

  • What is dram shop and what are the laws in Iowa? 
  • Social Host Liability in Iowa 
  • Damages and statute of limitations in Iowa  


What is dram shop and what are the laws in Iowa? 


Iowa’s dram shop act is codified in Iowa Code 123.92. In short, Iowa’s dram shop laws state that a vendor with a license or permit to sell alcohol may be held liable for injuries to a person if the vendor sold or served alcohol to the person who injured them. The vendor will be liable if the person who was intoxicated appeared to be intoxicated at the time the alcohol was sold or served. 


Unlike most personal injury cases, where the two parties are the injured and the person who caused the injuries, dram shop cases add the vendor who served the alcohol to the party who caused the injuries.  

Example: Party A goes to Bar for drinks. The bartender or server at Bar notices that Party A is becoming intoxicated but keeps serving them. Party A pays the bill and leaves, driving home. While driving home, Party A strikes Party B with their vehicle. Party B may sue not only Party A but also Bar for damages. Party B’s claim against Bar is for continuing to serve Party A alcohol even though they were intoxicated because the intoxication was a proximate or “foreseeable” cause of the accident that caused Party B’s injuries.  


There are some factors that will prevent an injured party from recovering under their dram shop claim in Iowa. This is known as “complicity.” Complicity occurs when the injured person has “encouraged or voluntarily participated to a material and substantial extent” in the drinking that led to the intoxication of the person who caused the injuries. For example, if Party A and Party B were buying each other drinks and drinking together, they could not bring suits against each other for injuries later on due to complicity. 


Social Host Liability in Iowa 


While injured parties can recover from vendors who have licenses or permits to sell alcohol in Iowa, they cannot recover from social hosts who serve alcohol at parties or other events. In other words, if someone goes to a house party and then injures you, you can’t recover against the house party host. This is codified in Iowa Code section 123.49, which specifies that social hosts who provide alcohol to guests cannot be held liable if a guest consumes the alcohol and then injures another person as a result of the intoxication. 


Damages and statute of limitations in Iowa  


Dram shop claims are civil lawsuits meant to compensate the injured party for their losses which include everything from medical bills to lost wages, property damage and pain and suffering.  


Iowa has specific time limitations for dram shop cases. Iowa requires that the alcohol vendor has to be notified of the claim within 6 months of the date of injury. This notice must contain specific information about the parties involved, the date the events happened, any information you know about what led up to the injury, among other things. If notice is not provided within 6 months, a claim can’t be brought under the dram shop law.  


The dram shop claim itself has the same statute of limitations as other personal injury cases, 2 years. This means you have to file the case within 2 years of the time the injuries occurred. 

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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