Louisiana’s “anti-dram shop” statute, La. R.S. 9:2800.1, limits the ability of a claimant to hold a provider of alcohol liable for damages resulting from the acts of an intoxicated patron. Subsection A of the statute declares that the consumption of intoxicating beverages, rather than the sale, serving, or providing of those beverages, is the proximate cause of any injury or property damage that the consumer may cause. Under Subsection B, anyone who lawfully serves alcohol to a person of legal age is provided immunity for any injury caused by the consumer that occurs “off the premises.” This immunity extends to sellers of alcohol and social hosts.
The Louisiana Second Circuit recently examined these provisions of this statute in Rugg v. Horseshoe Entertainment, et. al. The plaintiff alleged she was injured when an intoxicated patron (John Doe) fell onto her at a hotel bar. She alleged that the defendant, which operated a casino bar, was liable because it ignored multiple complaints about John Doe’s drunken state prior to the incident and failed to escort him out.
The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that Louisiana’s anti-dram shop statute prevented any finding of liability on its part. In opposing the summary judgment, the plaintiff argued that the statute did not rule out liability because the injury occurred on the premises.
The Second Circuit determined that the immunity afforded in Subsection B of the statute was not available because, as the plaintiff argued, the injury occurred on the premises. However, Subsection A of the statute, which declares the consumption, not the serving, of alcohol is the proximate cause of injury inflicted by an intoxicated person, still applied.
Under these circumstances, the Court held it had to determine whether the bar owner violated general negligence principles. In conducting this analysis, the court was required to focus on two issues: 1) whether the alcohol provider acted reasonably under the circumstances, and 2) whether the alcohol provider took any “affirmative acts” that increased the chances of the incident.
The Court of Appeal granted summary judgment under the facts of the case. The court found no evidence in the record that Horseshoe acted unreasonably leading up to the incident. Testimony indicated that the complaints about John Doe’s behavior arose after the incident occurred, not before. Similarly, the court reasoned that the failure to escort John Doe out of the bar was not an “affirmative act” that increased the risk of the incident because the record did not indicate Horseshoe had any reason to do so prior to the injury.
In conclusion, the court noted “that in no case will the serving of alcohol be held as the proximate cause of a tort in which alcohol was involved.” Therefore, the plaintiff had to show Horseshoe did something more to cause her injury than just serve John Doe alcohol. Because the plaintiff failed to do so, summary judgment was granted. Under these facts, Louisiana’s dram shop statute still applied to protect the defendant provider of alcohol, even though the injury occurred on its premises and the statutory immunity was not available.
La. R.S. 9:2800.1
Mechelle Rugg v. Horseshoe Entertainment, et al., 55,239 (La. App. 2 Cir. 1/10/24), 2024 WL 104143.