Nevada Supreme Court Reviews Dram Shop Liability


The Nevada Supreme Court addressed the liability of a hotel for injuries occurring in an automobile accident after evicting intoxicated persons from the hotel premises in Rodriguez v. Primadonna Company, 125 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 45 (October 1, 2009).

In Rodriguez, 17 year old Fabian Santiago had been drinking with his two adult uncles, Manuel and Daniel Garibay, on hotel property where they were checked in as guests. They became disruptive, and hotel security intervened. The hotel security officers' requested that Fabian and his uncles leave the property. Hotel security accompanied the three men as they retrieved their belongings. Manuel told another guest that the three of them were going to their car in the parking lot to "sleep it off." Manuel had not intended to drive, as he did not have valid license and he believed he was too intoxicated. When the men were escorted to their vehicle, Manuel told Daniel he was sober enough to drive. Hotel security personnel informed the men, seated in their car, that they had to leave the hotel parking lot and exit hotel property. After leaving the property, Manuel rolled the vehicle while driving at approximately 80 miles per hour. 17 year old Fabian suffered extreme spinal injuries and, as a result, is quadriplegic.

In addressing the claim of negligent eviction, the Court was faced with the issue of whether the hotel owed an affirmative duty to ensure Fabian's safety after he was evicted from hotel property. The Court reviewed Nevada law regarding intoxicated patrons:

  • In Nevada, hotel proprietors have the statutory right to evict from the premises anyone who acts in a disorderly manner or who causes a public disturbance in or upon the premises. NRS 651.020.[1]
  • In Nevada, commercial liquor vendors, including hotel proprietors, cannot be held liable for damages related to any injuries caused by the intoxicated patron, which are sustained by either the intoxicated patron or a third party, including when the intoxicated patron is a minor.
  • Nevada subscribes to the rationale underlying the nonliability principle--that individuals, drunk or sober, are responsible for their torts.

The Court concluded that "when a hotel proprietor rightly evicts a disorderly, intoxicated patron, the hotel proprietor is not liable for any torts that an evicted patron commits after he or she is evicted that result in injury." The proprietor does not have the duty to prevent injuries caused by the intoxicated patron that are sustained either by the patron or by third parties after the eviction has been executed.

The Court did recognize that hotel proprietors do have a duty to act reasonably under the circumstances. The Court stated, however, that in accordance with the principles underlying Nevada's rejection of dram-shop liability, so long as a proprietor does not use unreasonable force in evicting a patron, the hotel proprietor is not required to consider a patron's level of intoxication in order to prevent speculative injuries that could occur off the proprietor's premises.

Thus, although the hotel may have known that Fabian's step-uncle was intoxicated and could not safely drive, the Court concluded, "as a matter of law, that Primadonna did not have the duty to arrange safer transportation, prevent an intoxicated driver from driving, or prevent Fabian, a passenger, from riding with a drunk driver."