Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Actionable negligence is the failure to exercise that degree of care which a reasonable and prudent person would exercise under similar conditions. A defendant is liable for his negligence if the negligence is the proximate cause of injury to a person to whom the defendant is under a duty to use reasonable care.
The plaintiffs, Sandra and Roger Hart (the Harts) brought this action, alleging that the defendants Ivey, Rosenblatt, King and Howell were negligent in giving a party at which beer was served to John Dennis Little, Jr. who was eighteen years of age. The Harts alleged that these defendants knew or should have known that Mr. Little was intoxicated at the time they served him the beer. They also alleged that the Harts knew or should have known that the defendant Little would drive a motor vehicle from the party and was likely to injure some person. They alleged further that the defendants knew Mr. Little was a minor and it was a violation of N.C.G.S. § 18B-302 to serve beer to him. The Harts alleged further that as a result of these negligent acts by the four defendants Mr. Little's vehicle collided with a motor vehicle driven by Sandra Hart, causing her serious injury. Roger Hart asked for damages for loss of consortium. John Dennis Little, Jr. and his father, who owned the Little vehicle involved in the collision, made Howard L. Ivey, Jr. a third party defendant. They alleged that if the Littles are held liable to the Harts, that Ivey's negligence and his violation of N.C.G.S. § 18B-302 make him liable to them for contribution. The defendants Ivey, Rosenblatt, King and Howell moved for judgments in their favor on the ground the complaint did not state a claim against them. The third party defendant, Ivey, made the same motion. The superior court granted these motions. The Court of Appeals reversed the superior court. The Court of Appeals held that the Harts had stated a claim because of a violation by the defendants of N.C.G.S. § 18B-302 which was negligence per se. The Court of Appeals unanimously held that the Harts had not stated a claim under common law principles of negligence. The defendants appealed as of right from the holding of the Court of Appeals that their alleged action was negligence per se.
Did the Harts successfully state a claim under common law principles of negligence by alleging that the defendants served alcoholic beverages to a person when they knew or should have known that person was under the influence of alcohol and would drive an automobile on the streets or highway shortly after consuming the alcoholic beverage?
The court held that the Harts had not stated a claim of negligence per se for the violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 18B-302 because § 18B-302 was not a public safety statute adopted for the protection of the driving public. The Harts had stated a negligence claim under common law principles because the party hosts were under a duty to the people who travel on the public highways not to serve alcohol to an intoxicated individual who was known to have been driving and the injured party alleged that the party hosts had served an alcoholic beverage to a person they knew or should have known was under the influence of alcohol and that they knew that the person would shortly thereafter drive an automobile.