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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Dec 18, 2013

Head Comment: With Concurring & Dissenting Opinion

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

G. Andrew Rowlett and Behnaz Sulkowski, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Wal- Mart Stores East, LP.

Attorneys 2:

Amelia C. Roberts, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellees, Jolyn Cullum and Andrew Cullum.

Lynda Motes Hill, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Amicus Curiae, National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center.

Judge(s): LEE

The issue presented in this premises liability case is whether a store owes a duty to protect its customer from a visibly intoxicated customer who was ordered to leave the store by store employees. A store patron sued a store for negligence after she was struck and injured in the store’s parking lot by a vehicle driven by another store patron. Store employees had refused to fill the other patron’s medical prescriptions because they believed she was intoxicated; she became belligerent, and store employees ordered her to leave the store knowing that she was alone and would be driving her vehicle. In response to the lawsuit, the store filed a motion to dismiss, contending that it did not have a legal duty to control the intoxicated patron after she left the store. The trial judge granted the store’s motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the store owed the injured patron a duty of care to protect her from the intoxicated patron. Taking the plaintiffs’ allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in her favor, we hold that the foreseeability of harm and the gravity of harm to the injured patron outweighed the burden placed on the store to protect the patron against that harm. Therefore, the store patron’s complaint contains sufficient allegations which, taken as true, establish that the store owed a duty of care to the injured patron. The trial court erred by granting the motion to dismiss.