Court Rules Against Nightclub in Dram Shop Indemnity Case

Mass. Lawyers Weekly reports that a Boston nightclub could not be indemnified for a patron’s injuries because it failed to present evidence that the man showed visible signs of intoxication earlier in the evening at a Chinese restaurant, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

The plaintiff nightclub, Felt Enterprises, argued that because defendant Chau Chow II did not monitor how much alcohol it served the patron, the Chinatown restaurant was liable under the “mode of operations” test announced by the Supreme Judicial Court in its landmark 2007 Sheehan v. Roche Bros. decision.

Even though the plaintiff in Sheehan could not establish how long a piece of food had been on the floor before it caused a slip and fall, SJC Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland held, in an issue of first impression, that the store owner who created the foreseeably dangerous condition could still be held responsible.

But Judge Bonnie H. MacLeod-Mancuso refused to apply the SJC’s test to the nightclub’s case, granting summary judgment in favor of the Asian eatery.

“The Plaintiff has not presented any authority extending the ‘mode of operations’ doctrine from the self-service premises liability context to the dram shop liability context,” she wrote. “Considering the weight of authority against the Plaintiff’s position, the ‘mode of operations’ approach does not apply to this case, and the Plaintiff cannot show that the Defendant had notice [the patron] was intoxicated while it was serving him alcoholic beverages.”