One who sells intoxicating beverages for on the premises consumption has a duty to exercise reasonable care not to sell liquor to a noticeably intoxicated person.
Plaintiffs brought an action against defendant restaurant for negligence in serving alcoholic beverages to a noticeably intoxicated person, allegedly resulting in an automobile accident causing injuries to one plaintiff, a minor at the time of the injuries. The District Court of Oklahoma County dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and appellants appealed. Defendant had, served intoxicating beverages to a group of minors, and knew that they had driven to the restaurant. Defendant's employee assisted the driver to his car upon the group's departure. Plaintiffs alleged that beverages served by defendants caused the driver to become intoxicated or increased his prior intoxication thereby causing a one-car accident in which plaintiff was injured.
Does a third-party passenger injured by an intoxicated driver have a civil action against a vendor for on-premises consumption of an intoxicating beverage by a person the vendor knew or should have known was noticeably intoxicated and whose consumption of alcohol was the alleged cause of injuries?
Traditionally at common law, one who provides alcohol to a patron is not liable for harm caused to third persons by the intoxicated patron. The rationale behind this rule is that the voluntary consumption of alcohol by the patron is the proximate cause of resulting harm. However, many states have altered the traditional rule to allow for civil liability against liquor vendors in these circumstances. Concerning proximate causation, we find no distinction as does the old common law view, between the voluntary consumption of alcoholic beverages and the sale of the beverages in the chain of causation because the consumption, resulting intoxication and subsequent impaired driving ability of an intoxicated patron who is then involved in an accident are foreseeable intervening causes. A jury could find that appellees could have reasonably foreseen and anticipated the possible consequences in selling alcoholic beverages to a noticeably intoxicated patron who intended to drive an automobile and that the sale may have been a proximate cause of the alleged injuries.