Illinois law does not recognize a cause of action against the social host for injuries caused to third parties as a result of the host’s negligence in providing alcohol to its guests. In Illinois, the liability of a person who provides alcohol to a person who then, in turn, becomes intoxicated and injures a third party is limited in the following three situations.
A Dram-Shop cause of action is not based on negligence. It rather provides limited no-fault liability to third parties who have been injured as a result of intoxicated and/or impaired individuals. The liability through Dram-Shop is only limited to the injured third parties and does not cover injuries of the impaired person. In Illinois, a third party injured as a result of an intoxicated person can bring a Dram-Shop cause of action against (1). Any entity or a person licensed to sell alcohol who provides alcohol to the intoxicated person. (2). Any person 21-years-old or over who pays for a hotel or motel knowing that it will be used for unlawful consumption of alcohol. (3). Any person who owns, rents, leases or permits the occupation of a building or premises with the knowledge that alcohol will be sold on the property. The Statute of Limitation for an action brought under Dram-Shop Act is one year from the date of the accident.
Even though there is no cause of action for social host liability, Illinois Supreme Court has held that claim can still be brought under negligence of social host for providing alcohol under “Voluntarily Undertaking doctrine”. Wakulich v. Mraz, 203 Ill. 2d 223, 241, 785 N.E.2d 843, 854 (2003). Voluntarily undertaking states that “one who undertakes, gratuitously or for consideration, to render services to another is subject to liability for bodily harm caused to the other by one’s failure to exercise due care in the performance of the undertaking. Wakulich v. Mraz, 203 Ill. 2d 223, 241, 785 N.E.2d 843, 854 (2003). The liability of social hosts under voluntarily undertaking doctrine is limited to the extent of the undertaking. Once the social host voluntarily undertakes responsibility it can become liable for the injuries of the intoxicated person or a third party.
Exception for Minors
Another exception recognized in Illinois for liability of people providing alcohol is found in 740 ILCS 58/5 (West 2014). This statute in part provides that “Any person at least 18 years of age who willfully supplies alcoholic liquor or illegal drugs to a person under 18 years of age and causes the impairment of such person shall be liable for death or injuries to persons or property caused by the impairment of such person”. Unlike Dram-Shop Act the Statute of Limitation for bringing a cause of action under this statute is 2 years from the date of the accident.