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Andrew Hall v. Joshua Dean West, et al., Case No. 2D13-4138 (2nd DCA)

In Hall, the Second District affirmed a summary judgment entered in favor of the defendant beach resort, finding that the defendant owed no duty of care to the plaintiff. The plaintiff had suffered serious injuries after being struck by a speeding car driven by Joshua West. West and several friends visited the defendant beach club earlier on the day of the accident. West was intoxicated throughout his time at the beach resort. The resort's security personnel told West to leave the premises, and escorted him and his friends to their car. West got behind the wheel and drove off. Two hours later, and thirteen miles away, West struck the plaintiff. West's blood alcohol level was .188. The Second District affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the beach resort because (1) Fla. Stat. 768.125 bars the plaintiff's theory of liability, (2) Bardy v. Walt Disney World Co. was found not to be controlling, and (3) the beach resort had no general duty to prevent West from driving away.

The Second District initially ruled that it must affirm based on Fla. Stat. 768.125 alone. Fla. Stat. 768.125 provides that a "person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person," except where the person willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to someone underage or where the person knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to alcohol. The court noted that West was of age and no evidence was presented that the resort knew whether West was habitually addicted to alcohol. Thus, no statutory exception applied. The plaintiff argued his claims are not related to the sale of alcohol, and that the resort was negligent in allowing West to drive away while intoxicated. The Second District found the argument "parses the statute too finely." The court noted that the statute excuses the resort's liability for injury or damage "caused by or resulting from the intoxication" of the person served. The court stated that the legislature has set the boundaries of the duty owed to the plaintiff.

The Second District next addressed the argument that Bardy creates another exception. In Bardy, the plaintiff, an employee of Walt Disney World, was injured in an auto accident while intoxicated after one of his employer's security guards ordered him to leave the premises under threat of arrest, despite Bardy's protests that he was too drunk to drive. The Fifth District in Bardy ruled that Disney had a duty to refrain from ordering its employee to leave its premises unless it reasonably believed that the employee could drive away safely. The Second District was unwilling to further expand or limit the scope of Fla. Stat. 768.125, and found that the facts in Bardy were meaningfully different.

Lastly, the Second District found that Florida law imposes no duty on a business owner to ensure the safety of an intoxicated person who is about to leave the premises. And, "that business has no legal duty to control the conduct of a third person to prevent that person from harming others." The Second District therefore affirmed the summary judgment.

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