Law School Case Brief
Reed v. Breton - 475 Mich. 531, 718 N.W.2d 770 (2006)
Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1801(8) creates a rebuttable presumption of nonliability for all but the last retail licensee that serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. This novel presumption operates to require that a plaintiff, when opposing a defendant that invokes this presumption, must show more than the prima facie case required under § 436.1801(3). A plaintiff rebuts this presumption by showing not only the evidence required for a prima facie case, but clear and convincing evidence.
A vehicle driven by an intoxicated driver collided with an oncoming vehicle carrying two young men near Lansing, Michigan, killing all three individuals. The personal representatives sued the bar, alleging that the driver was served alcohol at the bar, that he was visibly intoxicated when he was served alcohol there, and that his subsequent impaired driving resulted in the deaths of plaintiffs' decedents. The circuit court granted the bar summary disposition because the bar was the second-to-last establishment to serve the driver and the personal representatives failed to rebut the presumption of Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1801(8). The Court of Appeals of Michigan reversed. The bar appealed.
Was the bar liable under § 436.1801(8)?
The court held that the personal representatives presented no evidence of the driver's visible intoxication under § 436.1801(3) when he was served at the bar. Four eyewitnesses saw no signs that the driver was visibly intoxicated, and expert reports discussing the driver's physical statistics and alcohol consumption, coupled with predications of his impairment, offered only speculation about how alcohol consumption affected the driver that night. Therefore, under § 436.1801(8), the bar was not liable.
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