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§43.1 Claims Against Seller of Alcohol to Minors – Third Person Injured

The Case: Worley v. Weigels, Inc ., 919 S.W.2d 589 (Tenn. 1996).

The Basic Facts: Plaintiffs, parents of a minor injured in an automobile accident while riding with an intoxicated minor driver, brought cause of action under Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 57-4-203(b)(1) and 57-5-301(c) against the Defendant store which sold the beer that the driver consumed. The purchaser of the beer was also underage.

The Bottom Line:

  • "With the enactment of these statutes, the legislature made a definite distinction between the basis for civil liability and the basis for criminal liability incident to the sale of alcoholic beverages. These statutes, rather than the duties imposed by criminal statutes,FN1 determine the civil liability of the seller. These statutes declare that the 'consumption' rather than the 'furnishing of' intoxicating beverages is deemed the 'proximate cause of injuries inflicted' by the intoxicated person, except that a sale may be deemed to be the proximate cause when the sale is to a person known to be a minor and whose consumption causes the injury or to a person who is 'obviously intoxicated' and whose consumption caused the injury. Since the purchaser in this case did not consume the beverage purchased, the accident was not caused by the purchaser's consumption of the beverage. Therefore, there is no liability on the seller.
    FN1 See e.g., Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 57-3-406(d), 57-3-412(a)(1), 57-4-203(b), and 57-5-301(a), (c) (Supp. 1995)."
    919 S.W.2d at 593.
  • "Under the statute, an action will not lie against a seller of intoxicating beverages unless it is proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the seller knew that the purchaser was a minor and sold intoxicating beverages to him or her anyway." Id.

Other Sources of Note: Biscan v. Brown , 160 S.W.3d 462 (Tenn. 2005) (holding that an individual who gave alcohol to minors in a social context could not be found liable for injuries caused by intoxicated minor driver but that an adult host had a duty to use reasonable care to protect his/her minor guests and third parties from dangers related to drinking and driving).

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.

To order a copy of the book, visit www.dayontortsbook.com. John also blogs regularly on key issues for tort lawyers. To subscribe to the Day on Torts blog, visit www.dayontorts.com.

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