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Biscan v. Brown – Case Brief Summary (Tennessee)

In Biscan v. Brown, 160 S.W.3d 462 (Tenn. 2005), 16-year-old Jennifer Biscan was injured in a single-car automobile accident after leaving a party hosted by an adult, Paul Worley, at Worley's home. Id.

In finding that Worley had a special duty to protect minors at the party the Supreme Court of Tennessee stated that, "because of their immaturity and inexperience, a duty may exist towards minors where it might not exist towards adults." Id. at 480.

The court evaluated several factors -- public policy, foreseeability, and means and ability to control the third party -- in determining whether Worley had a sufficient relationship to his minor guests, including Biscan, such that he owed her a duty. Id.

With respect to public policy, the court found that, because minors generally are prohibited from consuming alcohol, and public policy considerations favor imposing a duty to act for the protection of minors where such a duty might be absent when dealing with adults, that factor weighed in favor of finding a special relationship. Id. at 480-81.

With respect to foreseeability, the court concluded that, because it was foreseeable that guests would drink and drive, it also was foreseeable that guests would ride with drivers who had been drinking; thus, that factor weighed in favor of finding a special relationship. Id. at 481.

With respect to means and ability to control the third party, the court concluded that, Worley, an adult host who was "in charge" of a party held for minors, "certainly has some ability to control the conduct of his guests," which may have included preventing access to their cars or contacting the parents of intoxicated guests. Id. at 481-82.

Concluding that these factors supported a finding of a special relationship, the court held that, because Worley "knowingly permitted and facilitated the consumption of alcohol by minors, an illegal act, Worley had a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent his guests from harming third persons or from befalling harm themselves." Id. at 482.