Torres v. JAI Dining Services Inc., No. CV-20-0294-PR (November 2, 2021) (J. Timmer)
DRAM SHOP CLAIM STANDS WHERE DRIVER WHO BECOMES INTOXICATED AT CLUB, EVENTUALLY DRIVES HOME AND SLEEPS THEN DRIVES AGAIN WHILE STILL INTOXICATED CAUSING FATAL COLLISION/DRIVING HOME AND SLEEPING IS NOT AN INTERVENING SUPERSEDING CAUSE
Cesar Villanueva became intoxicated at the Jaguar's Club in Phoenix, got in a dispute and was forced to leave by bouncers at 2:30 a.m.. He drove to his brother's house where he stayed about an hour. Around 4 a.m. A friend then drove Villanueva to his house where he slept for a short time, got up and proceeded to drive his girlfriend's friend home. Shortly after 5 a.m. having dropped off the friend, he drove away colliding with another car and killing Guadalupe Suarez and Jesus Guillen.
Thereafter Villanueva was convicted of two counts of manslaughter and is now in prison. The surviving families sued Villanueva for negligence and the Jaguar Club for negligent overserving Villanueva. The defendant's motion for summary judgment based upon the argument that choosing to drive after sleeping at home constituted a superseding intervening cause was denied by the trial court. A jury ultimately awarded plaintiffs $2 million in compensatory damages apportioning fault 60% to Villanueva and 40% to the Jaguar Club. The Arizona Court of Appeals reversed the trial court based upon the intervening superseding cause argument. The Arizona Supreme Court reversed and remanded the court of appeals decision.
A liquor licensee has a duty to exercise due care in serving alcohol to patrons like Villanueva to protect members of the travelling public. As to the issue of proximate causation:
The foreseeable risk that an intoxicated patron might drive and cause an accident that injures or kills someone does not vanish solely because the patron initially returns home with the intent to sleep, eat, change clothes, or do myriad other things before deciding to leave home and resume driving. Intoxicated people frequently make foolhardy decisions, including refusing to stay put and sober up before getting behind the wheel. We agree with Plaintiffs that the risk created by a liquor licensee overserving a patron exists as long as the patron drives while intoxicated, regardless of when or where the patron travels and even with a short stop at home.
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