SW Legal studies in Business

Alcohol Liability Statute Cannot Be Applied Retroactively

Appeals court held that while a new statute may have created a cause of action for a wrongful death incident, since the death occurred before the statute was passed, it could not be applied retroactively so no cause of action exists.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Wrongful Death; Alcohol

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Tafi Coons sued Devin Berry for wrongful death due to the death of her 18-year-old daughter, Lita, at a party held at Berry's residence. Coons claimed defendant was negligent as a social host for offering, providing, and encouraging Lita to consume large quantities of alcohol at the party. The basis of the suit is the notion of social host liability. The death occurred in 2001; suit was filed in 2004. The trial court dismissed the suit in 2005 and after further proceedings, dismissed all claims in 2008. Coons appealed.


Affirmed. Coons asks the court to apply a statute enacted by the legislature in 2005 to allow the social host liability claim to proceed. The statute, which would allow the social host theory to be employed in cases of injury resulting from alcohol consumption by persons under age 21, did not take effect until more than four years after Lita's death. It cannot be applied retroactively. At common law, there was no cause of action for drinking at a private party, so the suit cannot proceed.

Citation Coons v. Berry, ---S.W.3d--- (2009 WL 4907331, Ct. App., Mo., 2009)

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