This case comes to us on petition to transfer from the Appellate Court under the Acts of 1933, ch. 151, § 1, p. 800, being Burns' Ind. Stat. Anno. § 4-215 (1946 Repl.). See Elder v. Fisher (1965), 205 N.E.2d 335 for the opinion of the Appellate Court.
This is an action for personal injuries. The plaintiff is suing on behalf of his ward, a minor child, who was rendered a paraplegic from the waist down in an automobile accident. In general, the facts alleged are that the defendant, a retail
The defendant filed partial demurrers and a general demurrer to the plaintiff's complaint. The trial court sustained the general demurrer to both paragraphs of the plaintiff's complaint, and the plaintiff declined to plead over. The plaintiff appeals from the sustaining of the demurrer to his complaint.
The second paragraph of the plaintiff's complaint is based upon § 20, ch. 13, of the Acts of the Indiana General Assembly of 1875 (Spec. Sess.). This section in brief provides for civil liability on the part of any person illegally selling intoxicating liquor for any injury or damage on account of the use of such liquor. The appellant maintains "with considerable trepidation" that this act may still be effective as to the civil liability provision. Some doubt is expressed in the annotation in the 1956 edition of Vol. 4, Part 2, § 12-610 of Burns' Ind. Stat. Anno.
As to this paragraph of complaint, we are of the opinion that the appellant's "considerable trepidation" is justified. Section 30, ch. 119 of the Acts of 1911; § 40, ch. 4 of the Acts of 1917, and § 46, ch. 48 of the Acts of 1925 all state "All laws or parts of laws in conflict herewith are hereby repealed." All of the acts involved above dealt with the regulation of the sale and use of alcoholic beverages, and purported to cover the entire field of such regulation. Therefore, in our opinion, § 20, ch. 13 of the Acts of 1875 (Spec. Sess.), supra, has been repealed.
However, it is on Paragraph I of his complaint that the plaintiff primarily relies in this action. Paragraph I attempts to state a common law action of negligence. Among the allegations of negligence in the complaint were the following:
(1) Whether the violation of ch. 226, § 31, of the Acts of 1935, as amended, which forbids the sale of alcoholic beverage to a person under 21 years of age, would constitute negligence per se or as a matter of law, and
(2) Whether with or without the above statute there can be a common law cause of action for negligence based upon the sale of intoxicating liquor.
It is urged by the appellee that the violation of a criminal statute is negligence per se only if the statute was enacted for the public safety. The appellee cites Northern Ind. Transit, Inc. v. Burk (1950), 228 Ind. 162, 172, 89 N.E.2d 905. In that case the following statement is made:
The appellee then argues that the purpose of the statute in question was to protect minors from the exposure to the evils of strong drink and not for the public safety, and that therefore the violation of the statute is not negligence per se or negligence as a matter of law.
It is of course true that if the obvious intention of a statute is to provide for the safety of the public, the violation of that statute is negligence per se. However, it does not follow that simply because a statute cannot be labeled a "safety statute," it does not create a duty, the violation of which would be negligence. The function of a prohibitory statute in negligence cases is the establishment of a duty, the violation of which constitutes the negligence. Hence we have the general requirement that the statute must not have been enacted for a wholly different purpose than to prevent the injury complained of, and that the statute must be designed to protect the class of people to whom a plaintiff belongs. See Indiana, etc., Coal Co. v. Neal (1906),
The primary difficulty is in determining what a statute was designed for and whom it was designed to protect. This can be determined only from an over-all examination of the particular statute involved.
Section 1 of the Act involved provides in part as follows:
The same section of the statute forbids the sale of intoxicating liquor to habitual drunkards and persons in houses of ill fame. It appears that the statute was designed to protect the people of the state. The plaintiff's ward would certainly be of that class.
The statute also seems to be designed to protect against more than the immediate and obvious effects of intoxicating liquor. It refers to economic welfare, health, peace and morals. When it is taken into consideration that the sale of intoxicating liquor to habitual drunkards is also prohibited by the statute, it seems probable that the legislature intended to protect against the possible harm resulting from the use of intoxicating liquor by those to whom it was not to be sold.
Hence, the statute was sufficiently broad in scope to cover the type of person represented by the plaintiff's ward in this action, and to cover the particular type of injury involved in this action. We are therefore of the opinion that an allegation of the violation of this statute is an allegation of negligence.
However, as pointed out later in the same paragraph:
As a result of some more recent cases, the following paragraph has been added under 30 Am. Jur., Intoxicating Liquors, § 521 [1965 Supp.], p. 29:
In Indiana, no cases have been cited or found which have directly held either that there is or that there is not common law liability against a vendor of intoxicating liquor. At least one case under the old Dram Shop Act included dicta to the effect that there is no common law liability. See Krach et al. v. Heilman (1876), 53 Ind. 517. Conversely, there have been
In other states, some courts have held that no common-law action lies against a vendor of liquor on behalf of a third person who was injured by acts of a person who became intoxicated after drinking the liquor, and in other courts such actions have been upheld. See Annotations 75 A.L.R.2d 834 and 130 A.L.R. 353 and cases there cited.
In recent years, there have been a substantial number of cases holding that where liquor is sold to such persons as minors or drunks who are particularly susceptible to the use of liquor, a seller can be liable for the resulting injury if circumstances should have warned him that his sale would create an unreasonable risk. Rappaport v. Nichols, 31 N.J. 188, 156 A.2d 1 (1959); Colligan v. Cousar, 38 Ill.App.2d 392, 187 N.E.2d 292 (1963); Waynick v. Chicago's Last Department Store, 269 F.2d 322 (7th Cir.1959); cert. den. 362 U.S. 903, 80 Sup. Ct. 611 (1960); Jardine v. Upper Darby Lodge No. 1973, Inc., 413 Pa. 626, 198 A.2d 550 (1964); Smith v. Clark, 411 Pa. 142, 190 A.2d 441 (1963).
In all of the above cited cases, reference was made to a prohibitory statute forbidding the sale of intoxicating liquor to minors or intoxicated persons.
The crucial issue in all of the cases involving liability of a seller of alcoholic beverages seems to be the matter of proximate cause. Many of the cases constantly cited have arbitrarily held that the selling of the intoxicating liquor is too remote in time to be a proximate cause of resulting injury.
However, it is well settled that for a negligent act or omission to be a proximate cause of injury, the injury need be only a natural and probable result thereof; and the consequence be one which in the light of the circumstances should reasonably have been foreseen or anticipated. 21 I.L.E. Negligence §§ 64, 65, pp. 323, 325; Conner v. The
In order to be actionable, an act of negligence need not be the only proximate cause. It is sufficient if the act, concurring with one or more efficient causes, other than the plaintiff's fault, is the proximate cause of the injury.
Even intervening acts of negligence do not necessarily relieve a wrongdoer of liability.
Ordinarily, the issue of proximate cause is for the jury if different minds might reasonably draw different inferences from the facts given. Certainly it is for the jury to determine whether or not the injurious consequences that resulted from negligence are such as ought reasonably to have been foreseen, or whether an intervening cause was such as to break the causal connection. 21 I.L.E. § 204 Negligence, 428, at 430.
While it is not binding on this court, the case of Colligan v. Cousar, supra (38 Ill.App.2d 392, 187 N.E.2d 292), is of interest. That was a case filed by a pedestrian against the seller of intoxicating liquor to a person who was drunk. The accident occurred in Indiana, and the Illinois court determined that the Indiana common law controlled. After examining several Indiana decisions, the court concluded that there is a common-law action in Indiana against those unlawfully selling or furnishing intoxicating liquor in favor of third persons subsequently injured by the acts of the purchasers as the result of their intoxicated condition.
In the absence of special statutory provision, the general principles of common-law negligence should be applied to cases involving intoxicating liquor. Accepting as true all the allegations of Paragraph I of the plaintiff's complaint, there are sufficient facts stated to constitute a cause of action. Hence it was error for the trial court to sustain the general demurrer addressed to Paragraph I of the plaintiff's complaint.
Transfer from the Appellate Court is ordered and the judgment of the trial court is reversed with instructions to overrule the demurrer to Paragraph I of the plaintiff's complaint and to take such further action as may be appropriate, consistent with this opinion.
NOTE. — Reported in 217 N.E.2d 847.