Tort Law

Restaurant had no liability for death of patron who was overserved, challenged to drive in bet, state supreme court says

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The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that a restaurant in Weatherford, Oklahoma, was not liable for the death of a patron in a lawsuit claiming that he was served 12 beers and five tequila shots before getting behind the wheel of his car in an attempt to collect on a bet.

The state supreme court ruled for the El Patio restaurant and one of its servers in a Feb. 14 opinion noted by the Legal Profession Blog.

The wrongful-death suit was filed in January 2021 by a representative for the estate of David Anthony MeGee, who died in January 2019, when his car collided with the back of a tractor trailer on the way to Oklahoma City. The suit claims that MeGee was driving because several servers bet him $200 that he would not meet them at a bar in Oklahoma City later that night. He could collect if he arrived.

The defendants sought to dismiss the suit. They claimed that there was no liability for an adult’s voluntary consumption of alcohol, and there is no cause of action for negligent betting.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court sided with the restaurant and the server.

The state supreme court said it recognizes dram shop liability when a third party is injured by a drunken driver who is overserved by a commercial vendor. But the Oklahoma Supreme Court stuck by its previous holding that bars liability in a suit by an adult who is injured by their voluntary intoxication.

Turning to the betting allegation, the state supreme court rejected the plaintiff’s claim that there was a duty to MeGee to refrain from betting him to drive while intoxicated.

“There may be a duty not to bet an intoxicated person to drive, but that duty is owed to innocent third parties, not the voluntarily intoxicated adult,” the Oklahoma Supreme Court said. “Allowing an intoxicated adult to be rewarded for his decision to drive does not deter drunk driving or further the public policy of protecting the innocent from the intoxicated.”

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