In a fascinating decision that was handed down by one of New York State's Appellate courts on November 16, the Court held that contrary to popular belief, New York's Dram Shop Laws are not limited to bars and drunk driving claims; the scope of liability arising under these laws is far greater - and even includes homeowners.


In this case, Murphy v. Cominsky, a teenage girl suffered serious personal injuries when she was bitten in the face by the defendant's dog while at their home for a party. Apparently, the dog became rather agitated when overstimulated by the substantial number of underage and drunk teens that were partying at the house unsupervised.


In affirming the trial court's decision declining to dismiss the case, the appellate court stated as follows:


"We conclude that the court properly denied defendant's motion to dismiss the first cause of action against him, alleging that he violated the Dram Shop Act. New York's Dram Shop Act affords a person injured "by reason of the intoxication" of another person an independent cause of action against the party that unlawfully sold, provided or assisted in procuring alcoholic beverages for such intoxicated person (General Obligations Law §§11-100 [1]; 11-101 [1]). The statute requires only "some reasonable or practical connection between the [furnishing] of alcohol and the resulting injuries; proximate cause, as must be established in a conventional negligence case, is not required" (Oursler v. Brennan, 67 AD3d 36, 43 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Adamy v. Ziriakus [appeal No. 1], 231 AD2d 80, 88, affd 92 NY2d 396; McNeill v. Rugby Joe's, 298 AD2d 369, 370; Bartkowiak v. St. Adalbert's R. C. Church Socy., 40 AD2d 306, 310)."


There is one other important note to this case, however: the appellate court dismissed the plaintiff's second claim contending that the defendant should be liable for their negligent providing of alcohol at their home, as "There is no common law cause of action for the negligent provision of alcohol in this State." See, Rust v. Reyer, 91 NY2d 355, 358-359; D'Amico v. Christie, 71 NY2d 76, 84-87; O'Neill v. Ithaca Coll., 56 AD3d 869, 872; McGlynn v. St. Andrew Apostle Church, 304 AD2d 372, 373, lv denied 100 NY2d 508.

Jonathan Cooper
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Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer
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