Torres v. JAI Dining Servs. (Phx.), Inc. (11/2/2021)

December 8, 2021

The Arizona Supreme Court holds that a dram shop may remain liable for injuries that occur after an overserved patron gets home, sleeps, then decides to drive.

After drinking at a bar, a patron drove home and fell asleep.  Later, the patron was woken up and taken to a friend’s house.  He drove himself home from the friend’s house and caused a wreck on the way back home.

A jury returned a verdict against the bar for negligently overserving the patron.  On appeal, the court of appeals reversed the judgment, concluding that the patron’s decision to drive after making it home was an intervening superseding cause that broke the chain of causation and thus relieved the bar of liability.

The Arizona Supreme Court accepted review and vacated the court of appeals’s decision.  The Supreme Court noted that the jury had been instructed on intervening superseding cause but did not accept the defense.  The Court held that, contrary to the holding in the court of appeals, a reasonable jury could have concluded that the driver’s conduct was not an intervening and superseding cause.

The Court vacated the decision below but remanded for the appellate court to consider whether common law dram shop claims have been preempted by statute.

Vice Justice Timmer authored the opinion for the Court.