Case Brief: Sutter v. Hutchings Case Name, Citation & Court: Sutter v. Hutchings, 254 Ga. 194, 327 S. E. 2d 717, Georgia Supreme Court, decided 1985. Parties & Procedural History: Trial Court level: Plaintiff Sutter sues Defendant Hutchings. Defendant filed summary judgment motion, and court granted judgment in favor of Defendant. Plaintiff appealed. First appeal: Ga. Court of Appeals affirmed judgment for defendant. Plaintiff appeals again to Ga. Supreme Court. Facts: Mrs.
Susan Hutchings permitted her 17-year old daughter to provide a keg of beer at a party the daughter was having at their home for some high school classmates. Mrs. Hutchings, as hostess, observed a 17-year old guest, Carlton Turner, engaged in a drinking game called “quarters. ” When Turner left at 11:30 PM, the keg was empty and he was noticeably intoxicated, having consumed the equivalent of 7 bottles of beer. Mrs. Hutchings expressed concern over his driving ability, but watched him get into his car.
Less than 4 miles away, he sped through a red light and killed David Sutter. Sutter’s widow is suing Mrs. Hutchings and her daughter. Plaintiff’s Cause of Action: negligence Issue: Whether a person who furnishes alcohol to a noticeably intoxicated person under the legal drinking age, knowing that such person would soon be driving, is liable to a third person injured by the negligence of the intoxicated driver. Defendant’s Argument: Mrs. Sutter was not serving the alcohol. The teenage guests in her house at her daughter’s party were serving themselves.
Unlike commercial liquor establishments, they have no bouncers to prevent drunken drivers from leaving. The common law rule creates no cause of action against someone who provides alcohol to someone who voluntarily becomes intoxicated, and consequently injures himself or someone else. Rule (of Law that answers the Issue in this case): A host/hostess owes a duty to those using the highways to not subject them to an unreasonable risk of harm by furnishing alcohol to an underage person who was also noticeably intoxicated and who the host/hostess knew would soon be driving a car.
Where one provides alcohol to a noticeably intoxicated 17-year old that will soon be driving a car, a jury would be authorized to find it foreseeable that the intoxicated driver may injure someone. This is true even when the alcohol is being provided in a private home. A jury is authorized to find that a person who encouraged another, who was noticeably intoxicated and under the legal drinking age, to become further intoxicated and who furnished that person with more alcohol, is liable for the negligent driving of the intoxicated driver.
Analysis (Court’s Reasoning Process): 1. Courts in other states (CA, NJ, NY, DL, etc. ) have held that a jury may reasonably determine that a social host who serves excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages to a visibly intoxicated minor, knowing the minor is about to drive a car, could reasonably foresee an accident resulting as a consequence. 2. GA statutes prohibit the serving of alcohol to intoxicated persons (3-3-22) and to underage persons (3-3-23).
The only exception to serving underage persons is for medical or religious purposes, or at that minor’s home, with parental consent. These statutes changed the common law, and the exceptions do not apply in this case. 2. As a matter of public policy, the right to serve alcohol to one’s underage high school daughter’s friends is not greater than the right to not be killed by an intoxicated underage driver. There is no right to serve alcohol to underage high schoolers. Conclusion: Judgment reversed. (Case remanded to trial court for further proceedings. )