Patterson v. Thunder Pass, Inc – 3/8/2007

March 23, 2007

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds that Tavern was Properly Held Exempt from Dramshop Liability when Drunk Driving Accident Occurred After Tavern Staff Confiscated Drunk Patron’s Car Keys and Drove Her Home.

Defendant Thunder Pass operates a tavern in Mesa. A patron became intoxicated at the tavern and drove erratically in the parking lot. Tavern staff confiscated her keys, called a cab (which never came), and finally drove her home, returning her keys to her when she was home. Unbeknownst to the Thunder Pass staff, the drunk patron returned the same night to the tavern’s parking lot and drove away in her car. Speeding the wrong way down the street, she crashed into a car driven by Patterson. Patterson sued Thunder Pass for negligence, negligence per se and respondeat superior. Thunder Pass filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it had fulfilled its duty by driving the patron home, and that the patron’s return to the bar was an unforeseeable superseding event that negated any alleged negligence on the part of the tavern. The trial court granted the motion, agreeing that the drunk patron’s immediate return to the tavern was “not reasonably foreseeable,” and reasoning that the injury to Patterson was the result of the patron’s “independent action,” which constituted a superceding intervening cause of the accident. The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court on both counts. The Court held that the tavern employees fulfilled their duty of care by “separating [the patron] from her vehicle and arranging for, as well as subsequently providing, the safe transportation of [the patron] to her residence.” The Court also held that “[the patron’s] decision to return that night to retrieve her vehicle while she was still intoxicated was unforeseeable and extraordinary and thus constituted a superseding, intervening event of independent origin that negated any negligence on the part of the tavern or its employees.”

The decision was authored by Judge Winthrop and joined by Judges Erlich and Weisberg.