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PostPosted: Tue May 08, 2001 8:14 pm 
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Location: Framingham, MA USA
Some of you may remember the case that I reported several weeks ago concerning a person's liability in connection with whether or not a companion(s) of a person may have liability or a duty to safeguard a fellow drinker who becomes very intoxicated.

The case was Panagakos v. Walsh. In this case a tavern owner is suing the companions of a man left in a drunken condition and who
left the tavern after companions had departed.

The man walked along the highway and was truck and killed. The tavern owner got 30 days in the slam resulting from criminal charges stemming from the accident and paid an undisclosed settlement with the parents of the decedent. Tavern keeper sought contribution from the companions.

The companions had provided fake ID's for the decedent.

At the trial level, the defendant companions won a motion for dismissal of the case, but the Appeals Court ruled that the tavern keeper could seek contribution. That was what I had reported.

The case is now before the Supreme Judicial Court (the SJC). Lawyers for the defendants argue that upholding the opinion of the Appeals Court would leave open the possibility that social companions who furnish alcohol may be liable for injuries suffered as a result of one's own viluntary intoxication, thus imposing a distinct duty on social companions where there was none in the past. Attorneys for the tavern say that holding the companions liable would be consistent with the general tort (wrongdoing) principle that when people leave others in dangerous situations, especially when they contributed to the danger, there can be liability.

This may be important to dram shop keepers, who can then open the purses of the companions and the total exposure.

Philisophical questions are also raised in the question of : Does concern for public safety warrant imposition of a duty to act as one's "brother's keepers" and take affirmative steps to insure their well-being? The reportin Lawyer's Weekly asks if the companions had placed their friend in a cab? What if they simply left him money for a cab? Or had left hime with a phone number of someone to call for a ride? How far would they need to go to fulfill their duty?

Although the SJC may not addrtess all of the sweeping questions arising out the the Panagakos case, the public and the legal community will be awaiting the decision with great expectation.

Can you ever go out with a friend or groups of friends in a party atmosphere where drinking is involved and not think of this case, even if you do not have one drink?


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PostPosted: Tue May 08, 2001 10:05 pm 
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Sobering indeed.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote
Quote:
Attorneys for the tavern say that holding the companions liable would be consistent with the general tort (wrongdoing) principle that when people leave others in dangerous situations, especially when they contributed to the danger, there can be liability.


Can you apply this to a street confrontation where one or more of your friends pick a fight you did not want any part of, and as result you get seriously injured?

Or if they contribute to a heated situation and then disappear when the fight starts, leaving you in jeopardy all by yourself?


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Van Canna


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PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2001 1:49 pm 
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Location: Framingham, MA USA
Van Canna, sensei

You have asked the following questions which apply to street fights or confrontations, and your point is well taken:

Can you apply this to a street confrontation where one or more of your friends pick a fight you did not want any part of, and as result you get seriously injured?

Or if they contribute to a heated situation and then disappear when the fight starts, leaving you in jeopardy all by yourself?

Should the SJC rule in such a way as to restrict liability to a dram keeper's right to sue for contribution, the situations you present would certainly be more difficult to prove.

In the event that the SJC decision nullifies third party liability as a duty imposed on a friend to a companion, then its every man for himself.

f the SJC imposes third party liability and finds for the dram keepers right to sue, then a Pandora's Box is open to creative lawyers.

The reason that precise language in the decision is most important to answer your question, is the fact that we have a primary party (the dram keeper) seeking contribution from the friends of the companion.

Your questions relate to a different scenario where the companion sues the friends directly.

That is not to say that the decision of the SJC could not develop that duty and right if it rules that there is a strict duty of friends to safe guard a companion who may have benefited from their positive actions.

That question, although before the Court could easily be avoided by structuring limiting language in the decision.

If the decision imposes even a limited duty,
you can be sure cases will be brought to apply the law to your type of situations with the hope that if the facts are cogent enough to apply the same principal of law, then the plaintiff could recover.

The SJC and many Supreme Courts of other states will often narrow the decision in a case of first impression just to avoid possibly ruling in all areas where a broad decision would result in a dearth of litigation.



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"The Goddess of Justice is Blind"


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PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2001 1:59 pm 
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Alan,

Most excellent reply. Thank you.



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Van Canna


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