ProfessorMelissa A. Hale
CaseCast™ – "What you need to know"
Brief Fact Summary. Zak provided Gwinnell with alcoholic beverages and then allowed him to drive home. Gwinnell was involved in a head on collision with Kelly on his way home. Kelly sued Gwinnell and Zak for negligence. The trial court granted Zak’s motion for summary judgment.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Social hosts who allow guests to become intoxicated and then drive, may be liable for injuries caused by the guest’s negligent drunk driving.
Issue. Is a host who serves liquor to a guest, knowing that the guest is intoxicated and will be operating a motor vehicle, liable for injuries inflicted on a third party when the injuries are a result of negligence and the negligence is caused by the intoxication?
Held. Yes. Judgment reversed and remanded.
* Tortfeasors are generally held liable for injuries that occur in the ordinary course of events from their negligence if the negligence was a substantial factor in bringing about the injuries. Zak provided his guest with liquor, knowing the guest would be driving later. Viewing the facts most favorably for the plaintiff (in light of the summary judgment motion) it is reasonable to conclude that Zak continued to serve Gwinnell after he was becoming visibly drunk. A reasonable person in Zak’s position could foresee that unless he stopped providing Gwinnell with alcoholic beverages, Gwinnell was likely to injure someone while operating his car.
* The remaining question is if this Court should impose a duty to prevent such a risk. Although imposing a duty may interfere with accepted standards of social behavior, this Court believes that the just compensation of drunk driving victims along with its deterrent effect outweigh the opposing policy considerations.
In most cases the justice of imposing such a duty is so clear that the cause of action in negligence is assumed to exist simply on the basis of the actor's creation of an unreasonable risk of foreseeable harm resulting in injury.View Full Point of Law