On January 19, 1976, one Richard L. Mott, while operating his motor vehicle, caused the death of the plaintiff's son, John Cimino. Mott allegedly became greatly intoxicated while a patron of the defendant tavern keeper, The Milford Keg, Inc. The plaintiff, Joseph A. Cimino, individually and in his capacity as administrator of the estate of his deceased son, John Cimino, brought this action against the defendant.
The complaint was originally brought in the Third District Court of Southern Worcester on August 24, 1976, and alleged two counts against the defendant, one for wrongful death of the son and the other for the decedent's conscious pain and suffering. The action was removed to the Superior Court on the defendant's motion on September 21, 1976. The plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint adding a count for negligent infliction of emotional distress on the plaintiff was allowed on April 3, 1979. The case was tried
The defendant argues that it was error to deny these motions because there was insufficient evidence to support a verdict that the defendant violated any duty it owed to the plaintiff, or that any such breach proximately caused the plaintiff's and decedent's injuries. The defendant also argues that the plaintiff should not have been permitted to recover on the count alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress. We affirm.
Evidence was introduced from which the jury could have found that the only entrance to The Milford Keg is through a municipal parking lot. A majority of the defendant's customers were observed during a thirty-day period arriving and leaving by automobile, and the defendant solicited business by advertisements in a newspaper which was circulated in Milford and the surrounding towns. The owner of The Milford Keg acknowledged that it had customers who would arrive and leave by automobile.
Mott went to The Milford Keg on January 19, 1976, and was served six or more "White Russians" (an intoxicating beverage containing vodka and coffee-brandy liqueur), between 1 P.M. and 6 P.M. While there Mott played pool and became drunk, loud, and vulgar. Mott had been ejected from The Milford Keg in July or August, 1975, for loud, boisterous, and drunken behavior. On the date of the fatal accident he did not remember at what time he had his last drink there, when he left, or how he got to his next destination, the Blue Moon Saloon. Mott arrived at the Blue Moon Saloon by automobile between 6:30 P.M. and 7 P.M., totally drunk and carrying a "White Russian." Mott was drunk and obnoxious at the Blue Moon Saloon. He stayed for approximately fifteen minutes and was not served a drink by anyone at the Blue Moon Saloon.
The plaintiff suffered a number of bruises as a result of the accident. The accident and his son's death also affected the plaintiff and his relations with his family. He subsequently suffered pains in his chest and stomach, diminished appetite, and difficulty in sleeping. He became generally depressed and introspective.
1. Duty of tavern not to serve intoxicated patron. The defendant argues that it owes a duty to travelers only to refuse to serve patrons who are visibly or obviously intoxicated, and that insufficient evidence was introduced at trial to warrant submission of that issue (as well as the question of proximate causation, discussed below) to the jury. It is axiomatic that, in reviewing the denial of the defendant's motions for directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict, we will construe the evidence most favorably to the plaintiff and disregard that favorable to the defendant.
In Adamian v. Three Sons, Inc., 353 Mass. 498 (1968), an issue similar to that argued by the defendant was raised. Adamian, however, came before this court on appeal from the sustaining of a demurrer by the trial judge. While Adamian accordingly did not specifically address the question whether the tavern's duty arises only when the patron becomes "visibly" intoxicated, it is instructive that the complaint upheld there alleged that the patron became "greatly intoxicated" while at the defendant's tavern. Id. at 499. Adamian also held that violation of G.L.c. 138, § 69, which prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person, is "some evidence" of the defendant's negligence.
We agree that a tavern keeper does not owe a duty to refuse to serve liquor to an intoxicated patron unless the tavern keeper knows or reasonably should have known that the patron is intoxicated. We also agree with the defendant's claim that a plaintiff must introduce evidence at trial that the defendant violated the statute before Adamian's "some evidence" rule comes into effect.
The plaintiff, however, introduced sufficient evidence from which the jury could infer that Mott was visibly intoxicated when he was served. Mott's loud and vulgar conduct and the defendant's service to Mott of a large number of strong alcoholic drinks was each sufficient to put the defendant on notice that it was serving a man who could potentially endanger others. There was no error on this ground.
2. Proximate causation of plaintiff's and decedent's injuries. The defendant argues next that it violated no duty to persons injured by the drunken driving of its patrons in the absence of evidence that it knew or should have known that the patron arrived, or would leave, by automobile. This contention requires us to focus upon the continuing vitality of our brief opinion in Dimond v. Sacilotto, 353 Mass. 501 (1968), decided the same day as Adamian. In Dimond, we affirmed a directed verdict for the defendant. We held that a sale of beer to minors who "`felt the alcohol' ... would not, without more, satisfy the burden upon the plaintiffs to prove proximate cause,"
Here a jury instruction was given that the plaintiff bore the burden of proving that the defendant knew or should have known that Mott was driving an automobile on the day of the accident. The jury answered "Yes" to special questions asking if the defendant had solicited the motoring public and if the defendant should have known Mott was using an automobile. These findings were amply supported by the plaintiff's evidence, and the verdict here would stand
Dimond's apparent requirement of scienter has been aptly criticized as weakening the liability of establishments that serve liquor on their premises "precisely where the social interest is strongest — the area of driving under the influence of alcohol." Comment, 48 B.U.L. Rev. 502, 512 (1968). We see no reason why the recovery by those injured by that driving should turn on such fortuities as the ability of such injured persons to prove that the defendant knew or should have known the particular person who caused the injury was going to use a motor vehicle. Such a requirement, moreover, flies in the face of the realities of modern life. We note that the Supreme Court of Oregon has acknowledged the propriety of a trial judge (sitting as the trier of fact) taking notice of the fact that it is now commonplace to travel to and from a tavern by car. Campbell v. Carpenter, 279 Or. 237 (1977). See Rappaport v. Nichols, 31 N.J. 188 (1959). A similar result was reached in Ono v. Applegate, 62 Haw. 131, 141 (1980), where the court held "that the consequences of serving liquor to an intoxicated motorist, in light of the universal use of automobiles and the increasing frequency of accidents involving drunk drivers, are foreseeable to a tavern owner."
It is only necessary for the plaintiff to prove that the defendant took a risk with respect to the plaintiff's safety that a person of ordinary prudence would not have taken, and that the plaintiff suffered a resulting injury that was within the foreseeable risk. See Wiska v. St. Stanislaus Social Club, Inc., 7 Mass.App.Ct. 813, 818 (1979), citing Carey
Although he may do so, it is unnecessary for the plaintiff to prove that the defendant solicited the motoring public, or that many of the patrons were drivers, or that there were any special circumstances alerting the defendant to the knowledge that a risk existed that a particular patron would probably drive improperly and thereby injure someone on the highway. Without such evidence, a jury may infer that a tavern keeper of ordinary caution recognizes that an intoxicated patron may drive an automobile, thus creating a risk of injury to highway travelers, and that such a person's response to that recognition ought to be to refrain from serving liquor to the patron. A jury may also infer that service of liquor to an intoxicated patron is the proximate cause of injuries sustained by a traveler who suffers direct injury by reason of a vehicle being operated by the patron in a manner that is affected by his intoxication. The ultimate question for the jury is whether the service of liquor by the defendant tavern keeper to the intoxicated patron was a failure to exercise that degree of care for the safety of travelers that ought to be exercised by a tavern keeper of ordinary prudence in the same or similar circumstances.
3. Recovery for emotional distress. The defendant argues that the plaintiff's cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress was barred by the statute of limitations, requires an unwarranted retroactive application of our opinion in Dziokonski v. Babineau, 375 Mass. 555 (1978), and is "preempted" by the wrongful death statute, G.L.c. 229, § 2. We find no merit in these contentions.
This case involves no extension or retroactive application of Dziokonski, supra. The plaintiff here, unlike the plaintiff in Dziokonski, was himself indisputably in danger of being hit by Mott's car. There was considerable authority in 1976, when this accident occurred, in favor of permitting a person within the so called "zone of danger" to recover for emotional distress and injuries caused by witnessing injuries negligently inflicted on another. See Annot., 29 A.L.R.3d 1337, 1356-1357 (1970), and cases cited; Restatement (Second) of Torts § 313 (2) (1965). We acknowledged these authorities in Dziokonski, supra at 563-564, but there we permitted recovery by one not in the zone of danger. See, id. at 569-571 (Quirico, J., dissenting). It seems clear, also, that the case law of this Commonwealth had developed by January 19, 1976, to allow recovery for negligent infliction of emotional harm where physical impact or harm was involved as it was in this case. See Dziokonski, supra at 559 (cases collected). See also Freedman v. Eastern Mass. St.
The defendant's final argument that the plaintiff's claim for emotional distress is "preempted" by the wrongful death action (G.L.c. 229, § 2) misconstrues the common law cause of action for emotional distress. Emotional distress, as the concept has evolved in this Commonwealth, is a severe psychological shock directly resulting from experiencing or witnessing the effects of a defendant's conduct. See Dziokonski, supra, and cases cited. See also Ferriter v. Daniel O'Connell's Sons, 381 Mass. 507 (1980). A claim for damages based on emotional distress does not include an administrator's claim for loss of consortium — which will be present in every wrongful death action such as this. Since emotional distress is a wrong to the plaintiff distinct from that done to his son and the statutory beneficiaries of the decedent, it is not a duplicative remedy and is not "preempted" by the wrongful death statute. Cf. Minkley v. McFarland, 371 Mass. 891 (1976) (compensatory damages); Gouras v. Barchi, 5 Mass.App.Ct. 845 (1977) (loss of consortium). See also Ferriter v. Daniel O'Connell's Sons, supra.
There was no error in permitting the plaintiff's amendment or in denying the defendant's motions to dismiss, for a directed verdict, for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or for a new trial.