Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

The Walls Of Nevada’s Dram Shop Wonderland Castle Withstand Assault

In our previous blog post, Dram Shop Wonderland, we addressed attempts that have been made over the years by Nevada lawyers to impose liability on bar, tavern and hotel owners for injuries and damages caused by their inebriated guests.  We noted that despite compelling circumstances, the courts have not imposed liability.  The court’s argument has been that if dram shop liability is to be imposed, it must be done by the Nevada legislature.

Alcohol bottles It has been 13 years since the last attempt to breach the walls of Nevada’s Dram Shop Wonderland Castle, as recounted in the Nevada Supreme Court opinion of Snyder v. Viani, 112 Nev. 568, 916 P.2d 170 (1996).  However, in October 2009, another assault on the walls was turned back by the opinion of Rodriguez v. Primmadonna Co., 125 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 45 (2009).

Fabian Santiago, 17 years-old, was a guest with his two adult step-uncles at a Primadonna owned property, Buffalo Bill’s Resort and Casino, in Primm, Nevada. As you may know, Primm is on the I-15, near the border between Nevada and California.  Other than three hotel/casinos, fueling stations and an outlet mall, there is little else in that town. Las Vegas is about 30 minutes to the north.

Fabian’s step-uncles had been drinking and one of them punched another guest in the face.  They were told to leave the property.  Since there really is nowhere else to go, it would be logical that the hotel would know that Fabian and his uncles would be leaving by car.  While leaving the hotel property, the drunken step-uncle rolled the car, resulting in Fabian’s quadriplegia.

The lower District Court granted Primmadonna’s motion for summary judgment, finding that Primmadonna had the right and duty to evict Fabian and his inebriated step-uncles.  Appellant’s guardian opposed the motion, arguing that the Primmadonna had erroneously classified the claim as one for dram shop liability, when there were actually multiple factual bases for imposing liability.

Plaintiff argued that this was not a “dram shop” case but one of improper eviction.  The Nevada Supreme Court found that the eviction had been effectuated properly.  The basis was Nevada statute N.R.S. 651.020 (1), which gives hotel proprietors the statutory right to evict anyone who causes a public disturbance in or upon the premises.

Plaintiff also argued that Primmadonna owed a duty to Fabian to protect him from his drunken uncles.  Instead, the Court found that since Nevada commercial alcohol vendors are not liable for injuries sustained by intoxicated patrons, Primmadonna did not owe Fabian a duty, either before or after the eviction.

The Nevada Supreme Court once again affirmed the long-standing rule in Nevada that a proprietor’s sale of alcohol is not the proximate cause of injury to either the consumer or a victim of the consumer of the beverage, and as a matter of law, a proprietor does not have an affirmative duty to prevent injury subsequent to an eviction of an inebriate.

About Michael Mills

Mr. Mills practices in the area of civil litigation and appeals, with particular experience in matters involving trucking liability, insurance defense, insurance coverage, premises liability, products liability and defense of personal injury. Mr. Mills is a member of the Trucking Insurance Defense Association, the Defense Research Institute Trucking Committee and the Nevada Motor Transport Association. Mr. Mills is licensed to practice before the Nevada Supreme Court and the Utah Supreme Court. He is also licensed to appear before the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Nevada and Utah, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Mills has created 3 Blogs for the benefit of the insurance industry. He serves as editor and publisher of the Nevada Insurance Law Blog, the Nevada Coverage and Bad Faith Blog and the Nevada Trucking Law Blog.

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