In Reed v. Cowboy’s W. Store & Trailer Sales, Inc., 2016-462 (La. App. 3 Cir. 3/1/17), — So.3d —, the Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment and found that a night club was not be liable to the plaintiff after one of its patrons left the premises and rear-ended the plaintiff’s tractor. At issue in the case was whether the bar’s duty extended beyond a duty not to sell alcohol to an underage patron.
In Reed, the plaintiff alleged that the underage bar-patron was intoxicated after she left the bar and that her impairment contributed to the accident. The plaintiff argued that the bar breached its duty to prohibit underage consumption of alcohol on its premises and was therefore liable in the accident.
The Third Circuit disagreed. According to the Reed court, the only duty the bar possessed was a duty to refrain from selling alcohol to those below the legal age. It declined to impose a heightened duty to patrol the premises continuously to ensure that underage patrons did not consume alcohol unlawfully or secure alcohol from someone of legal drinking age. Because no evidence showed that the patron bought alcohol at the bar, the court was left with only speculation as to how she acquired the alcohol.
In dicta, the court commented that plaintiff also failed to establish that the patron was, in fact, intoxicated or that her intoxication caused the accident. The bar offered expert testimony that the patron was neither intoxicated nor impaired at the time of the accident based upon an examination of her body weight, the amount of alcohol she consumed, and the time that elapsed before the accident transpired. In response, the plaintiff offered testimony from three lay witnesses who essentially testified that the patron “could have been intoxicated.” This testimony was insufficient to dispute the expert’s conclusion.