Warr v. JMGM Group, LLC, 12/6/2013

Warr v. JMGM Group, LLC, 433 Md. 170, 70 A.3d 347 (2013)

The Maryland Court of Appeals has again decided that Maryland does not recognize dram shop liability.  However, in this case, the basis for the Court’s decision was not a lack of proximate cause, but it was the absence of duty on the part of the tavern to prevent harm to the injured persons. 

The case arose out of a tragic automobile accident that occurred when Michael Eaton, who was driving his vehicle while intoxicated, struck another vehicle, killing a young girl and injuring the other passengers.  It was alleged that Eaton had become intoxicated while consuming many drinks at Dogfish Head Alehouse.  The plaintiffs filed suit against Dogfish Head and sought to hold it liable, in negligence, for the injuries caused by Eaton.   

The Court of Appeals held that the plaintiffs did not have a cause of action against Dogfish Head because negligence requires that a defendant owe a tort duty to a plaintiff.  The tavern did not owe a duty to these unknown plaintiffs, who did not have any type of special relationship with the tavern.  Nor did the tavern have a special relationship with, or a duty to control, Mr. Eaton.  Without the duty element, there is no cause of action for negligence.