Del E. Webb Corp. v. Superior Court

In Del E. Webb Corp. v. Superior Court, 151 Ariz. 164, 726 P.2d 580 (1986), the decedent had been served liquor at a resort and later was found dead in the resort's pool with a high level of alcohol in his body. The superior court granted summary judgment to the survivor, precluding raising contributory negligence or assumption of the risk even if they were factually supported. Id., 151 Ariz. at 165-66, 726 P.2d at 581-82. In accepting special action jurisdiction and reversing, the court found that the dramshop statute was not an exceptional statute precluding a contributory negligence defense for several reasons. First, the court concluded that the statutes were intended in part or primarily to protect the general public. Id. at 169, 726 P.2d at 585. Second, as a matter of public policy, it concluded the "question of recovery by the patron for injuries caused by his own affirmative acts is essentially a question of contributory negligence and assumption of the risk." Id. It distinguished cases holding that dramshop statutes barred contributory negligence because those cases concluded that permitting such defenses would absolutely bar the action and make the use of action illusory. In Arizona, however, that would not be the case under principles of comparative fault and the fact that contributory negligence and comparative fault were matters ultimately to be decided by a jury. Id. at 169-70, 726 P.2d at 585-86.