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Does a pub Landlord have a duty to prevent a customer from driving when he has left the pub intoxicated?

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Duty of care

Suppose that a customer comes into a pub and drinks sufficiently to put them over the drink drive limit. They leave the pub and they are three times over the legal limit for driving a car. They get into their car, they drive off, they have an accident and cause injury to themselves. Did the Landlord have a duty of care to prevent the customer from leaving the premises intoxicated?

A similar point was considered by the Court of Appeal in Joy v Newall t/a The Copper Room in 2000.

In this case, an intoxicated individual entered a pub, bought a drink, took a few sips and then fell off the bar stool sustaining severe injuries leaving him a quadriplegic. In this particular case, it was suggested that the barman, rather than allow the customer to sit on a normal bar stool should have placed him in a low chair, from which he was less likely to fall. The trial Judge dismissed the customer’s action and he appealed to the Court of Appeal.

In dismissing the appeal it was held that a Landlord of Licensed premises would ordinarily expect his customers to regulate their own consumption of alcohol. Whilst it was a criminal offence for a Landlord to serve more drink to an already intoxicated person it would not be just, fair or reasonable to regard him as having assumed responsibility for their safety even in circumstances where he knew they were already or might, if served with more drink, become so intoxicated as to be incapable of taking reasonable care of themselves.

It seems therefore that in the scenario painted above the Licensee owes no duty of care to the driver.

In a situation where the driver had entered an empty pub and become highly intoxicated and then had tried to leave and drive, the situation might be different and the Landlord may in these extreme circumstances be held liable.

However, the general rule of thumb must be that the Landlord is not liable.

If you have any queries concerning this please do not hesitate to contact Andrew Cochrane on 01332 226 142.

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