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 patron.
    • The Appellate Court changed the common law to assign liability to tavern owners for the acts of intoxicated patrons.
      • 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 hurt someone.
  • 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.
    • Is there a difference?