SW Legal studies in Business

Dramshop Act Controls Determination of Liability for Drunk Driving by Employees

Appeals court held that in Illinois the Dramshop Act controls liability for injuries arising from alcohol abuse. If a death caused by a drunk driving employee is shown to have occurred when the employee was acting within the scope of employment, then the employer can be liable.

Topic Employment Law
Key Words

Drunk Driving; Dramshop Act; Vicarious Liability

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Kim, an employee of Korean Air (KA), struck a car driven by Simmons, killing both of them. Simmons’ heir, Hicks, sued KA, contending it was liable for Kim’s drunk driving because she was acting within the scope of her employment with KA. KA served Kim alcohol at a dinner sponsored by the company which, Hicks claimed, made the company liable under the Dramshop Act. KA replied that it was not vicariously liable because Kim was not acting within the scope of her employment. She had voluntarily attended a dinner that was voluntarily attended by KA employees for the purpose of saying goodbye to an employee who was moving. Hicks replied that KA paid for the dinner, so the company was the host. Trial court granted summary judgment to KA. Hicks appealed.


Reversed and remanded. In Illinois, the legislature has preempted the entire field of alcohol-related liability through its passage of the Dramshop Act. No liability for the sale or gift of alcoholic beverages exists outside of the Dramshop Act. Liability for negligence can arise from an employer-employee relationship, if the employee’s negligence is within the scope of employment. It is for the jury to determine if Kim was acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident, in which case vicarious liability would apply to KA.

Citation Hicks v. Korean Airlines, ---N.E.2d--- (2010 WL 3290997, Ct. App., Ill., 2010)

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