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State Liquor Liability Act Does Not Govern All Instances of Injury Related to Alcohol
Description The high court of Maine reversed a lower court ruling that set aside a jury verdict awarding damages to a person who fell off the roof of a friend's house while helping him work on the house, while drinking the friend's alcoholic beverages. The negligence of the working conditions, not the service of alcohol, was central, so the state liquor liability law is not the only remedy.
Topic Torts
Key Words Liability; Alcoholic Beverages
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Kevin Thibodeau was helping Daniel Slaney work on his house. While working, Thibodeau consumed beer and liquor provided by Slaney, although Slaney contended he had no idea how much Thibodeau consumed. Thibodeau fell off the roof of the house, while staining walls, and was injured. The jury found both parties negligent and awarded Thibodeau $97,000. The judge dismissed the case, holding that the Maine Liquor Liability Act (MLLA) was the exclusive remedy. Thibodeau appealed.
Decision Reversed. The MLLA is the "exclusive remedy against servers who may be made defendants ... for claims by those suffering damages based on the servers' service of liquor." Here, "the relationship between Slaney and Thibodeau centered on staining the house, not serving alcoholic beverages." The MLLA governs cases where a plaintiff alleges that a defendant negligently served alcoholic beverages, proximately causing plaintiff's intoxication and subsequent injuries; service of liquor is central. Here, the jury found that Slaney was negligent for allowing Thibodeau to work on his roof while intoxicated and that the danger was increased by failure to use any safety equipment. The MLLA does not control this case.
Citation Thibodeau v. Slaney, A.2d (2000 WL 794004, Sup. Jud. Ct., Maine, 2000)

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