What is the Tennessee law regarding liability of one who furnishes alcohol?

27 April 2012 Categories: All Blogs, Personal Injury

There are common questions that people often ask when you tell them you are an attorney in Tennessee. One that often comes up in social situations is regarding the liability of someone who furnishes alcohol to another. Tennessee has some specific statutes and case law regarding this question. The laws are:

57-10-101.  Proximate cause. 

  The general assembly hereby finds and declares that the consumption of any alcoholic beverage or beer rather than the furnishing of any alcoholic beverage or beer is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person.

57-10-102.  Standard of proof.

  Notwithstanding the provisions of § 57-10-101, no judge or jury may pronounce a judgment awarding damages to or on behalf of any party who has suffered personal injury or death against any person who has sold any alcoholic beverage or beer, unless such jury of twelve (12) persons has first ascertained beyond a reasonable doubt that the sale by such person of the alcoholic beverage or beer was the proximate cause of the personal injury or death sustained and that such person:

   (1) Sold the alcoholic beverage or beer to a person known to be under the age of twenty-one (21) years and such person caused the personal injury or death as the direct result of the consumption of the alcoholic beverage or beer so sold; or

   (2) Sold the alcoholic beverage or beer to a visibly intoxicated person and such person caused the personal injury or death as the direct result of the consumption of the alcoholic beverage or beer so sold.

These statutes have been interpreted by Tennessee courts to mean that one who furnishes alcohol to another is immune from liability caused to third parties except in the two narrow circumstances. One key word in both exceptions is “sold.” This means that someone who gives alcohol to someone else, or furnishes at a party, is probably not going to be liable. If you are a bar or restaurant, however, you are probably going to be liable for injuries if the person who bought the alcohol was under 21 or was visibly intoxicated.

While the law may shield some people from liability, McNulty & Associates always encourages people to drink responsibly and encourage others to make safe decisions.

 

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