Law School Case Brief
Murdock v. Fraternal Order of Eagles - 779 N.E.2d 964 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002)
The Indiana Dram Shop Act provides in relevant part that a person who furnishes an alcoholic beverage to a person is not liable in a civil action for damages caused by the impairment or intoxication of a person who was furnished the alcoholic beverage unless: (1) the person furnishing the alcoholic beverage had actual knowledge that the person to whom the alcoholic beverage was furnished was visibly intoxicated at the time the alcoholic beverage was furnished; and (2) the intoxication of the person to whom the alcoholic beverage was furnished was a proximate cause of the death, injury, or damage alleged in the complaint.
A driver, who had been drinking at an establishment operated by defendant Fraternal Order of Eagles, struck plaintiff Murdock with his vehicle at approximately 35 miles per hour, throwing him 30 feet into a ditch. The driver left the scene of the accident. Plaintiiffs Murdock and his wife filed a complaint against the Fraternal Order based on the Indiana Dram Shop Act, alleging that the Fraternal Order was responsible for the injured Murdock's injuries. The Fraternal Order moved for summary judgment, which was granted by the trial court. On appeal, plaintiffs contended that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the Fraternal Order
Could a fraternal order, which provided alcohol to an individual who later struck plaintiff with his car, be held liable for the injuries sustained by the plaintiff?
In affirming the trial court's judgment, the court of appeals noted that the record was devoid of any independent evidence of the driver's level of intoxication. Without more, the court of appeals concluded that the designated evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to support an inference that the Fraternal Order's bartender had actual knowledge that the driver was visibly intoxicated when she furnished him with alcoholic beverages. The evidence also showed that the driver consumed two or three beers in approximately two hours and 20 minutes. The bartender on duty at the time the driver was drinking testified she did not remember seeing him on the day of the accident. Thus, the evidence was not sufficient to prove that the bartender had actual knowledge that the driver was visibly intoxicated when she furnished him with alcoholic beverages.
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