De La Torre, the plaintiff appealed the trial court’s dismissal of the case
under Fla. Stat. 768.125, which insulates businesses from liability for
damages caused by intoxicated patrons. The case arose after an intoxicated
patron left the defendant restaurant and caused a motor vehicle crash
that resulted in injuries to the plaintiff. The defendant restaurant had
an internal policy designed to prevent drunken patrons from driving away
from the premises, which was allegedly not followed.
The Fourth District noted that Fla. 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, with certain limited exceptions
that were not at issue in this case. The plaintiff argued that Fla. Stat.
768.125 was inapplicable because the basis for the claims was not the
sale of alcoholic beverages, but instead the undertaker’s doctrine,
due to the defendant’s attempts to prevent the driver from driving
under the influence. The Fourth District disagreed, finding that the defendant’s
actions to stop selling alcohol to the driver and to giver the driver
water did not increase the risk of harm stemming from the driver’s
intoxication, nor did the defendant undertake to perform a duty owed by
the driver to third parties.
The Fourth District noted that “Florida law does not impose a general
duty on the owner of a business to ensure the safety of an intoxicated
person who is about to leave the premises of the business.” The
Fourth District additionally rejected the plaintiff’s arguments
that the defendant’s internal policies imposed a duty upon the defendant,
finding that “there is ample case law stating that internal policies
do not create a duty to third parties.” Accordingly, the Fourth
District affirmed the dismissal of the complaint.