WPI 370.07 Furnishing Alcohol to Minors—Duty of Commercial Vendor
6A WAPRAC WPI 370.07Washington Practice Series TMWashington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
6A Wash. Prac., Wash. Pattern Jury Instr. Civ. WPI 370.07 (7th ed.)
Washington Practice Series TM
Washington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
April 2022 Update
Part XX. Alcohol Liability
Chapter 370. Liability for Furnishing Alcohol
WPI 370.07 Furnishing Alcohol to Minors—Duty of Commercial Vendor
A commercial vendor of alcohol owes a duty to take reasonable precautions not to [sell] [serve] [furnish] alcohol to a minor. A minor [, for purposes of this instruction,] is a person under the age of twenty-one. [A commercial vendor of alcohol owes this duty to the minor who seeks to obtain the alcohol, to other minors with whom it is foreseeable the minor will share the alcohol, and to third persons who sustain foreseeable alcohol-related injuries as a result of the [sale] [service] [furnishing] of alcohol to the minor or the minor's sharing of it with other minors.]
The duty of a commercial vendor to take reasonable precautions not to furnish alcohol to a minor requires the vendor to check the person's identification, and, if still in doubt about the person's true age, to either refuse to [sell] [serve] [furnish] the person alcohol, or have the person sign a certification card and record an accurate description and serial number of the person's identification on the certification card.
NOTE ON USE
Use this instruction for claims that a commercial vendor of alcohol was negligent in furnishing alcohol to a minor. Use bracketed language as applicable. Use this instruction with WPI 370.08 (Furnishing Alcohol to Minors—Commercial Vendor—Burden of Proof) or WPI 370.10 (Furnishing Alcohol to Minors—Commercial Vendor—Minor Transferee—Burden of Proof). If there is a claim that the minor to whom alcohol was furnished was obviously intoxicated or was apparently under the influence of alcohol, also use WPI 370.01 (Furnishing Alcohol—Person Apparently Under the Influence of Alcohol or Obviously Intoxicated Person—Duty).
If the case involves a transfer of alcohol from a purchasing minor to other minors, also use WPI 370.09 (Furnishing Alcohol to Minors—Commercial Vendor—Minor Transferee) with this instruction. If the negligence of a minor purchaser for sharing alcohol with other minors is in issue, also use WPI 370.12 (Furnishing Alcohol to Minors—Duty of Social Host).
If contributory negligence of a minor purchaser or a minor transferee is asserted as a defense, use the appropriate instructions contained in WPI Chapter 11 (Contributory Negligence and Imputed Negligence), WPI Chapter 12 (Specific Factors Affecting Negligence and Contributory Negligence), WPI Chapter 16 (Defenses), and/or WPI Chapter 60 (Statutory Violations). If RCW 66.44.210 is asserted as a defense, use WPI 370.11 (Furnishing Alcohol to Minors—Commercial Vendor—Certification Card Defense).
The duty and its source. After Congress repealed Prohibition, the Washington Legislature enacted the Washington Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, also known as the Washington State Liquor Law. Among other things, the Act makes it a crime to sell, give, or otherwise supply alcohol to a minor, i.e., a person under the age of twenty-one. RCW 66.44.270(1); RCW 66.44.310.
Although the Legislature has been silent on the issue of civil liability for furnishing alcohol to minors, Washington courts have held that a commercial vendor of alcohol has a duty to take reasonable precautions not to serve alcohol to a minor and whether the vendor took reasonable precautions to determine the age of its customer is a question of fact. Young v. Caravan Corp., 99 Wn.2d 655, 660–61, 663 P.2d 834 (1983), amended 672 P.2d 1267 (1983); Callan v. O'Neil, 20 Wn.App. 32, 40, 578 P.2d 890 (1978).
Using Restatement (Second) of Torts section 286, the courts have concluded that the criminal provisions of the Washington State Liquor Law prohibiting vendors from selling or furnishing alcohol to minors creates a standard of care that, when breached, can be considered by the trier of fact as evidence of negligence. Schooley v. Pinch's Deli Market, 134 Wn.2d 468, 473, 951 P.2d 749 (1998); see also Crowe v. Gaston, 134 Wn.2d 509, 951 P.2d 1118 (1998); Purchase v. Meyer, 108 Wn.2d 220, 737 P.2d 661 (1987); Young, 99 Wn.2d at 660–61; Torres v. Salty Sea Days, Inc., 36 Wn.App. 668, 676 P.2d 512 (1984); Callan, 20 Wn.App. at 40.
Although some of these cases made reference to negligence per se (e.g., Purchase, Young, Callan, and Torres), after the enactment of RCW 5.40.050, the violation of statutes prohibiting the furnishing of alcohol to minors may be considered only as evidence of negligence. Schooley, 134 Wn.2d at 473 n.1.
To whom the duty is owed. To date, Washington courts have found that the following persons have a cause of action in negligence against a commercial vendor who sells or furnishes alcohol to a minor: (1) an injured intoxicated minor purchaser, Young, 99 Wn.2d at 660; (2) third persons injured by the intoxicated minor purchaser, Purchase, 108 Wn.2d at 228; (3) other injured intoxicated minors with whom it was foreseeable the minor purchaser would share the alcohol, Schooley, 134 Wn.2d at 483; and (4) third persons injured by an intoxicated minor with whom the minor purchaser foreseeably shared the alcohol, Crowe, 134 Wn.2d at 516–17.
How the duty is fulfilled. Under RCW 66.20.180, a commercial vendor, in order to determine whether or not a buyer is of legal age to purchase alcohol, may request the buyer to present identification. According to the court in Schooley v. Pinch's Deli Market, 134 Wn.2d 468, 481, 951 P.2d 749 (1998), “all the vendor has to do is ask the purchaser for valid identification in order to verify that he or she is of legal age to purchase alcohol.” And, according to the court in Crowe v. Gaston, 134 Wn.2d 509, 518, 951 P.2d 1118 (1998), “[t]he alcohol vendor is simply required to check the buyer's identification.”
Under RCW 66.20.190, in addition to checking the buyer's identification, the vendor, if still in doubt about the buyer's true age, shall require the buyer to sign a certification card complying with the statutory requirements, which include recording an accurate description and serial number of the buyer's identification on the certification card. According to the court in Crowe v. Gaston, 134 Wn.2d 509, 519, 951 P.2d 1118 (1998), “[i]f the vendor completes this step the vendor is immune from any criminal or civil liability regarding the sale of alcohol to the minor.” See also Schooley, 134 Wn.2d at 481; RCW 66.20.210.
Limitations on liability. The liability of a commercial vendor for negligently furnishing alcohol to a minor is not limitless. First, the concept of foreseeability determines the scope of the duty owed. Schooley, 134 Wn.2d at 477, 481; Christen v. Lee, 113 Wn.2d 479, 492, 780 P.2d 1307 (1989). Thus, an alcohol vendor will be responsible only for the foreseeable consequences of its negligent sale of alcohol. Schooley, 134 Wn.2d at 481.
Second, “the doctrine of superseding cause serves as a significant limitation on a commercial vendor's liability.” Schooley, 134 Wn.2d at 482. Third, because the purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol by a minor is illegal under RCW 66.44.270(2), when the person injured is an intoxicated minor between the ages of 6 and 20, the violation of the statute may be introduced as evidence of that minor's contributory negligence. Schooley, 134 Wn.2d at 481, 483.
Fourth, “if the minor's intoxication results in that person being more than 50 percent at fault for his or her own injuries, then no recovery is allowed.” Schooley, 134 Wn.2d at 481; see also RCW 5.40.060. Fifth, if the vendor has taken the requisite steps to check identification and obtain a signed certification card, the vendor is immunized from all criminal and civil liability. Schooley, 134 Wn.2d at 481; Crowe, 134 Wn.2d at 519; RCW 66.20.210.
[Current as of February 2021.]
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