The following section from Day on Torts Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law​​​ is out of date and should not be used. It remains a part of this site for historical purposes only. An updated version of the book is available by subscription at (Additional information below.)

§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.

After an accident, many injury victims and their families want more information on the accident and their legal rights. Consequently, many of them have found their way to these pages. While we are happy you are here, please understand Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law was written to be a quick, invaluable reference for Tennessee tort lawyers. While the book provides the leading case for more than 300 tort law subjects and thousands of related case citations, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

Rather than researching these legal issues alone, we urge you to contact one of our award-winning lawyers who can sit down with you, review your case, answer your questions and clearly explain your rights and your options in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced attorneys handle all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency basis, so we only get paid if we win. If for any reason you are unable to come to our office, we will gladly come to you.

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The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

The book is now available electronically by subscription at The new format allows us to keep the book current as new opinions are released. BirdDog Law also has John's Tennessee Law of Civil Trial and Compendium of Tennessee Tort Reform Statutes available by subscription, as well as multiple free resources to help Tennessee lawyers serve their clients

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