In Cook v. MillerCoors, the District Court for the Middle District of Florida takes on a case in which a woman injured in a drunk driving accident sues the maker of the booze that the driver was drinking before the accident.
Heather Cook was injured in a motorcycle accident after being thrown from the motorcycle on which she was passenger. Prior to the accident, the motorcycle driver – John Prado – consumed several cans of Sparks, an alcoholic energy drink. Cook sued MillerCoors, LLC, the drink’s manufacturer, alleging negligence in the design and manufacture of the drink as well as a failure to warn consumers of its “uniquely dangerous” characteristics. MillerCoors filed a motion to dismiss the claims.
On appeal, the Middle District found that the Sparks drink was not so qualitatively different from other alcoholic beverages so as to justify disregarding a general rule that purveyors of alcoholic beverages are not liable for injuries resulting from their consumption. The court rejected Cook’s argument that Sparks and other alcoholic energy drinks are uniquely dangerous because they appeal to younger drinkers, and because the added caffeine enables people to drink more alcohol than normal without feeling as intoxicated. “Cook’s argument overlooks an important point: the alleged ‘special risks’ manifest themselves only if the consumer chooses to drink in excess,” the court observed. Under relevant case law, the court concluded, any person who drinks alcohol does so knowing that he or she may become intoxicated.
The court also held that Cook cannot show that MillerCoors’ design and manufacture of the drink proximately caused the accident. “Under Florida law, voluntary drinking of alcohol is the proximate cause of an injury, rather than the manufacture or sale of those intoxicating beverages,” the court noted, quoting the Southern District of Florida’s 2001 decision in Bruner v. Anheuser-Busch. Furthermore, Section 768.125, Florida Statutes protects MillerCoors from liability, providing that a person or entity who gives or sells alcohol to a person of legal age is not responsible for any injury or damage caused as a result of the person’s intoxication.
Regarding MillerCoors alleged failure to warn drinkers about the “special risks” associated with the drink, the court observed that a manufacturer does not have a duty to warn consumers of dangers which are obvious or commonly known. The court found that the dangers of drinking alcohol manifest themselves when consumed in excess, “and there is no duty to warn in that circumstance.”
As a result, the court granted MillerCoors’ motion to dismiss the claims.
Even when the driver has not been drinking, motorcycle accidents result in a disproportionately high number of fatalities because these vehicles simply do not offer the same kind of protection as cars. A motorcycle accident can have devastating consequences for victims, as well as their family and friends. The physical and emotional pain and suffering, long hospital stays, medical expenses and significant time off from work can take a huge toll on everyone involved.
The South Florida accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine draw on the expertise of a full team of personal injury lawyers, medical/legal support experts and investigators who are ready to represent you in and out of the courtroom. If you’ve been injured in an accident, call toll-free at 800-747-3733 or submit an online Contact Us form to schedule a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.
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