§25.2 Designated Driver
The Case: Downs v. Bush , 263 S.W.3d 812 (Tenn. 2008).
The Basic Facts: Minor out for a night for a night of drinking with friends. Plaintiff's decedent became very intoxicated. After Plaintiff's decedent died as a pedestrian as a result of being struck by two vehicles on a local interstate highway, his mother brought suit against his drinking companions for failing to provide for his safety. Included in her lawsuit was an allegation that Mr. Eller, as the designated driver, should have protected her son from harm.
The Bottom Line:
- "The plaintiff, however, posits that Mr. Eller owed Mr. Downs more than the customary duty to exercise reasonable care when driving the truck because he was a 'designated driver.' The plaintiff argues that '[t]here should be a duty for designated drivers to take affirmative actions to keep intoxicated passengers inside the passenger compartment of the vehicle and to ensure that the intoxicated passenger is not abandoned in a position of peril along the journey.' We disagree with such a broad imposition of an affirmative duty of care because the public is better served by encouraging individuals to serve as designated drivers rather than adopting a policy that could potentially discourage the practice." 263 S.W.3d at 824 (footnote omitted).
- "Designated drivers offer a valuable, but limited service to those who become intoxicated. Based on these public policy reasons, we hold as a matter of law that Mr. Eller owed a duty to exercise reasonable care in driving the vehicle and remaining sober while performing this service. Mr. Eller did not, however, assume an affirmative duty to aid or protect Mr. Downs merely because of his status as designated driver." Id.