Brigance v. Velvet Dove Restaurant, Inc.
725 P.2d 300 (Okla. 1986)
Johnson and some other minors
were served alcohol at the Velvet Dove Restaurant, despite the fact that
the managers knew Johnson was going to drive.
Johnson got into a car
accident, injuring Brigance, who sued Velvet Dove for negligence.
The Trial Court dismissed the
case. Brigance appealed.
The Trial Court found that
the defendants owed no duty of care.
Brigance argued that risks
to members of the public from drunk drivers are reasonably foreseeable, therefore providing drinks could pose an
unreasonable risk of harm to the public.
The Appellate Court reversed.
Until this time, common law
held that a tavern owner that gives alcohol to another is not civilly
liable for a third person's injuries caused by acts of the intoxicated
The Appellate Court changed
the common law to assign liability to tavern owners for the acts of
Basically, tavern owners
have a duty to exercise reasonable care not to sell liquor to noticeably
intoxicated patrons, because it is pretty easy to foresee that they could get into a car accident and
Restatement of Torts says that a special duty to care is created
when there is a special relationship between two people, and
one could argue that the restauranteur-patron relationship is a special
relationship. But that duty to care is
generally thought of as a duty to care for the patron, not a duty to care
for people the patron might injure.