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§63.5 Claim Against Manufacturer of Alcohol

The Case: Pemberton v. American Distilled Spirits Co ., 664 S.W.2d 690 (1984).

The Basis Facts: Minor died after consumption of Everclear Grain Alcohol. His parents brought various claims under the Tennessee Products Liability Act against the manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer of the alcohol claiming that the product was of unusually high alcohol content and consumers were not warned of this fact.

The Bottom Line:

  • "The Minnesota Supreme Court, in Sworski v. Coleman, 208 Minn. 43, 293 N.W. 297, 299 (1940), stated in relation to alcohol:
    The pathological effect of using intoxicants is well known. It is common knowledge that large doses may cause death almost simultaneously by a reflex action on the heart or by cardiac and respiratory depression after the drug has been absorbed."
    664 S.W.2d at 693.
  • "Alcohol is universally classified as toxic. Webster's Third International Dictionary defines 'toxic' - 'a toxic substance: something poisonous.'" Id.
  • "The complaint in this case charges that the alcohol was 'poisonous' and decedent died 'as a result of alcohol overdose.' In our opinion these allegations come within the Products Liability Act provision negating the duty to adequately warn of a danger or hazard that is apparent to the ordinary user, T.C.A. § 29-28-105(d), and are insufficient, if proven, to impose liability on either the manufacturer or seller of the alcohol. It follows that the complaint does not state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and must be dismissed on the filing of a Rule 12.02(6) motion." Id. at 693-94.

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.

To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call us at 615-742-4880 or toll-free at 866.812.8787.

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 John also blogs regularly on key issues for tort lawyers. To subscribe to the Day on Torts blog, visit

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