Henning v. Montecini Hospitality, Inc – 12/20/2007

January 2, 2008

Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two Holds That Dram Shop Liability Does Not Attach to Corporate Owner That No Longer Exercises Sufficient Control or Supervision Over the Bar.

Maria Henning’s son was injured in an automobile accident. The driver had been served “alcoholic beverages at a bar known as Famous Sam’s. . . .” “On the night of the accident, the bar was owned by appellee Montecini Hospitality, Inc., but operated by Zimbow Enterprises, Inc., a company that was in the process of purchasing the bar.” Henning filed a complaint alleging that “Montecini was liable under dram shop laws and for negligently training its employees to serve alcohol to obviously intoxicated or underage persons.” The trial court granted summary judgment against Ms. Henning because “Montecini no longer exercised sufficient control over the bar or its employees to owe any duty to” Ms. Henning’s injured son. Ms. Henning appealed.

The Arizona Appeals Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in Montecini’s favor. It reasoned that, because Montecini no longer held the liquor license or exercised control or supervision over the bar’s operations, it “owed no duty of care with regard to the sale and service of alcohol at Famous Sam’s on the night of” the accident. With respect to Ms. Henning’s negligent training claim, the Court first noted that “none of the bar employees who served alcohol on the night in question were still employed by Montecini; [m]ost of the handful of Arizona cases that have recognized the tort of negligent hiring, training, or supervision have done so when the tortfeasor remains a current employee of the entity to be held liable.” The court then went on to reject Ms. Henning’s claim because (1) “our jurisprudence has repeatedly determined the scope of a defendant’s duty to third parties with reference to the defendant’s right to control the person, place, or instrumentality causing injury,” (2) “our legislature has specifically considered and limited the class of persons who owe a duty of care in the service of alcohol,” and (3) “[t]o hold that Montecini owed a duty of care to the Hennings under such circumstances would mean that an employer could never escape liability for the actions of a former employee.”

Judge Eckerstrom authored the opinion; Judges Espinoza and Vasquez concurred.