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Stephanie De La Torre, et al. v. Flanigan’s Enterprises, Inc., Case No. 4D15-195 (4th DCA)

In 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.

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