Parsons v. Jow

In Parsons v. Jow, 480 P.2d 396 (Wyo. 1971), the Court affirmed the district court's order which dismissed the tort claim of Parsons, an underage passenger in an automobile operated by McCall, also underage, asserted against Jow, the owner of a bar, whose employee had sold intoxicating liquor to the underage McCall. McCall had consumed the liquor, become intoxicated, and driven his automobile into a school building, causing permanent injuries to Parsons. Affirming the district court's order that Parsons' complaint against Jow had failed to state a legally cognizable tort claim upon which relief could be granted under Wyoming tort law, the Court recognized and applied the common law rule that no cause of action existed "against a vendor of liquor in favor of one injured by a vendee who becomes intoxicated--this for the reason that the proximate cause of the injury was deemed to be the patron's consumption of liquor and not its sale." Id. at 397. Parsons had apparently argued that a Wyoming statute, then 12-33, W.S. 1957, 1969 Cum.Supp., made unlawful the sale of liquor to an underage person; that the statute established a civil duty of care owed by the liquor vendor to a third-party like Parsons; and that the liquor vendor's violation of the statute, and thus the duty of care, was either negligence per se or evidence of the liquor vendor's negligence. Id. The Court rejected that argument because, even assuming the liquor vendor's violation of the statute (duty), the statutory violation (duty breach) "would not be a proximate cause of injury." Id. In conclusion, the Court noted that modification of the common law rule of civil non-liability of the liquor vendor was "within the province of the legislature." Id. at 398.