December 18, 2017

Colorado Supreme Court: Liability Under Colorado Dram-Shop Statute Does Not Require that Injury Be Foreseeable Consequence of Sale or Service of Alcohol

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Build It and They Will Drink, Inc. v. Strauch on June 6, 2011.

Dram-Shop Liability.

In this case involving an unprovoked stabbing by an intoxicated nightclub patron, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether the court of appeals erred in holding that reasonable foreseeability, an element derived from a traditional common law negligence action, may not be considered in determining whether a vendor of alcohol is liable for injuries caused by intoxicated patrons under Colorado’s dram-shop statute, CRS § 12-47-801. The statute expressly abolishes any common law action against a vendor of alcoholic beverages, adopting a general rule that the consumption of alcohol, rather than the sale, service, or provision of alcohol, is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted on another by an intoxicated person. Nevertheless, the statute also creates liability for liquor licensees by describing the limited circumstances under which there are exceptions to the rule that consumption is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted by an intoxicated person.

CRS § 12-47-801 replaces the common law proximate cause determination with specific statutory elements, eliminating civil liability for liquor licensees except when there is a willful and knowing sale of alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person and injury resulting from the intoxication. Under these circumstances, the sale or service of alcohol is the proximate cause of a plaintiff’s injuries, and a vendor of alcohol is liable for limited damages.

Because the plain language of the statute defines the criteria for proximate cause and liability without mention of foreseeability, the Court held that liability under § 12-47-801 does not require that plaintiff’s injury be a foreseeable consequence of the sale or service of alcohol. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals.

Summary and full case available here.

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  1. […] are foreseeable from the alcohol. However, the Colorado Supreme Court found in 2011 that the injury does not have to be foreseeable for Colorado dram shop law to apply. In the case Build It and They Will Drink, Inc. v. Strauch, a […]

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