Washington Law Review


Under the traditional view of the common law, drinking alcohol rather than providing alcohol acted as the proximate cause of any resulting harm, and therefore furmishers of alcohol had no duty to the people served or those injured by the persons served. The Washington Supreme Court has held that negligently furnishing alcohol can be a proximate cause in tort but has severely limited rights of action: vendors who serve minors or obviously intoxicated adults may be sued by subsequently injured innocent third parties, and all people who serve alcohol to minors may face suit if the minor is subsequently injured because of drinking. The court, however, has held that, except for the duty owed to minors who injure themselves, there is no social host liability in Washington. In addition vendors, like social hosts, are immune from suit by adults who injure themselves. This Comment contends that these distinctions and limitations are neither inherently logical nor mandated by legislative action. It argues that liability should be uniform for all classes of potential plaintiffs and potential defendants, and that questions of contributory negligence and foreseeability of harm are properly delegated to the trier of fact.

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