Rees v. Albertson's, Inc

In Rees v. Albertson's, Inc., 587 P.2d 130 (Utah 1978), the plaintiff was a minor and an intoxicated person who had injured third parties and who had been required to pay compensation. See Rees, 587 P.2d at 131. The plaintiff sued Albertson's, seeking contribution on the basis that it had illegally sold the beer that caused the intoxication. See id. The court's analysis turned on foreseeability, and its conclusion was straightforward: "We think reasonable minds could believe that in selling beer to a minor, such as plaintiff, the defendant reasonably should have foreseen the likelihood of it being combined with an automobile and result in some occurrence such as eventuated here. To be considered in connection with what has been said above are these principles: that the questions relating to negligence and proximate cause are generally for the fact-trier, court or jury, to determine. A party should not be deprived of the privilege of having such an adjudication of his claims unless it appears that even upon the facts claimed by him he could not establish a basis for recovery." Id. at 133. The plaintiff in Rees was not suing for his own injuries; he sought contribution and an allocation of liability for injuries to third parties. No claim for contribution could or would lie absent a duty and potential liability running from Albertson's to the third party (hence the court's care to assess the foreseeability of third-party injuries). The Rees court, in fact, recognized the legitimacy of a third-party claim when it permitted the plaintiff to go to trial on the contribution question.