Torres, et al. v. JAI Dining Services
(Supreme Court of Arizona, October 16, 2023)
The Supreme Court of Arizona found that the state constitution did not prohibit the Arizona State Legislature from passing a law imposing a higher burden of proof for dram shop liability than had been established in Arizona common law. After a night of heaving drinking at a JAI establishment, an intoxicated patron drove his car and caused a fatal crash. Family members of the crash victims sued JAI arguing that state common law created dram shop liability, meaning establishments that sell alcohol to intoxicated individuals may be liable for injuries caused due to the intoxication. Common law dram shop liability was established in Arizona via court decision in 1983. The state legislature sought to alter that common law, passing legislation that imposes a more rigorous standard for imposing liability on alcohol sellers. The plaintiffs alleged that the legislation violates the Arizona Constitution, which states that the “right of action to recover damages for injuries shall not be abrogated.” The Court found that this constitutional provision did not apply to causes of action created by the 1983 dram shop common law case because that liability was created after Arizona achieved statehood. The more rigorous standard for imposing dram shop liability survived challenge. Read the full Opinion here.