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RI Court: No liability for allowing friend to Drive Drunk Causing Fatal Car Crash

The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently decided a Personal Injury / Drunk Driving Car Accident / Wrongful Death Case which was a very interesting  issue of first impression in Rhode Island:

Issue decided:

“does the driver of a motor vehicle, who is an adult but underage drinker, have a duty to protect third parties from the tortious conduct of an intoxicated individual he or she has agreed to transport, who is likewise an adult but underage drinker, by preventing that individual from subsequently operating a motor vehicle?” Gushlaw v. Miller, No. 2009-376-Appeal (R.I. S.Ct. May 10, 2012).

The Court answered this question with a resounding- NO.

The Court stated:

“Though mindful of the tragic consequences that far too often result from an alcohol-impaired individual’s decision to navigate the roadways, as was the case here, we hold that, under the factual circumstances at hand, no such duty to third parties existed on the part of the defendant-driver to prevent his intoxicated passenger from later operating his own motor vehicle. ”

Important Facts:

The Defendant invited his friend to a party at a hotel. The Defendant and his friend purchased beer. Both met with their respective cars.  Defendant drove and his friend left  his car at the convenience store. Both were under the legal age to consume alcohol. They attended a party and the Defendant’s friend was drunk.

The Defendant dropped off his friend to pick up his automobile towards the end of the evening. His friend was speeding and crossed the center line and collided head on with another vehicle. As a result of the drunk driving car accident, both Defendant and the third party were killed in the Rhode Island Auto accident.

Court Reasoning:

“As emphasized in Santana, there is generally no duty to control the conduct of a third party to prevent injury to another person unless “a defendant has a special relationship with either the person whose conduct needs to be controlled or with the intended victim of the conduct.” Santana, 969 A.2d at 658; see also Restatement (Second) Torts § 315.

Gushlaw v Miller: Do We Have a Duty to Stop Alabama Drivers from Drinking and Driving? http://www.alabama-injury-lawyer-blog.com/2012/05/gushlaw-v-miller-addresses-whe.html

 GUSHLAW v. MILNER 42 A.3d 1245 (2012) http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?xmldoc=In%20RICO%2020120510694.xml&docbase=CSLWAR3-2007-CURR

MADD- Drunk Driving Statistics- http://www.madd.org/statistics/

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