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Bernhard v. Harrah's Club - 16 Cal. 3d 313, 128 Cal. Rptr. 215, 546 P.2d 719 (1976)


Generally, a forum will apply its own rule of decision unless a party litigant timely invokes the law of a foreign state. In such event he must demonstrate that the latter rule of decision will further the interest of the foreign state and therefore that it is an appropriate one for the forum to apply to the case before it.


Defendant Harrah's Club, a Nevada corporation, owned and operated gambling establishments in the State of Nevada in which intoxicating liquors were sold, furnished to the public and given away for consumption on the premises. Partially in response to defendant's advertisements and solicitations in California, a married couple drove from their California residence to defendant's gambling and drinking club in Nevada. During their stay, they were served numerous alcoholic beverages by Harrah's employees, and while still in an intoxicated state, the couple attempted to drive their car back to California. Howver, the car drifted across the center line into the lane of oncoming traffic and collided head-on with plaintiff Richard A. Bernhard, a resident of California, who was then driving his motorcycle. As a result of the collision Bernhard suffered severe injuries. Berhard filed a complain, alleging that Harrah''s sale and furnishing of alcoholic beverages to the married couple was negligent and was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries in the ensuing automobile accident in California for which plaintiff prayed $100,000 in damages. The trial court after finding that that the law of Defendant's state (Nevada) was applicable and that the law precluded recovery against Harrah for injuries sustained in California that were proximately caused by the selling of alcohol to an intoxicated person, sustained Harrah's general demurrer to the first amended complaint. Bernhard appealed.


Did California law apply in the negligence complaint of the plaintiff even if the defendant’s state residence is Nevada?




The appellate court reversed the judgment of the trial court and held that it was proper to assume that defendant be held to the laws of the state when the Nevada tavern intentionally solicited business from the citizens of the state. The court held that it was proper that California's law be applied to defendant who advertised and solicited California residents to come to its establishment for the purpose of drinking and gambling and with the knowledge that they could become intoxicated and would then use the public highways to go home.

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