Prior to 1959 a third party victim's only recourse against a liquor vendor was through dram shop and civil damage acts. These acts impose liability upon liquor vendors for injuries caused by the sale of alcoholic beverages to certain statutorily proscribed persons. Under the traditional common law, a cause of action against a liquor vendor was virtually unknown. The basis for refusing to impose such liability usually rested on the theory that it was the consumption of the liquor, not the sale, which was the proximate cause of the injury. Other courts refused recovery on the basis of contributory negligence, the rationale being that it was not a tort to sell or give away intoxicating liquor to one who was strong and able-bodied. Still other courts held that civil damage acts had preempted the field of civil liability. The courts have recognized only a very few exceptions. In 1959 the landmark case of Rappaport v. Nichols was decided by the New Jersey Supreme Court. Rappaport began a trend of decisions which recognized a common law cause of action against liquor vendors who sold alcoholic beverages in violation of criminal statutes. This view has now been adopted in fifteen states and the District of Columbia, while in three additional states it has been recognized as sound. The Nebraska Supreme Court, in Holmes v. Circo, rejected this line of decisions. This Note analyzes the court's reasoning and the reasoning which supports the trend toward establishing liability against liquor vendors.
Avis R. Andrews,
Liability of Liquor Vendors to Third Party Victims: Holmes v. Circo, 196 Neb. 496, 244 N.W.2d 65 (1976),
56 Neb. L. Rev. 951
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