In January 2009, the Full Court of the Supreme Court of Tasmania
in the case of Scott v C.A.L No 14 Pty Ltd handed down a
decision which may impact severely on the treatment of a
licensee's duty of care when a patron consumes liquor to a
level of intoxication.
The Scott case was concerned with the same issues that the
Queensland Supreme Court "Chevron Hotel" case dealt with
in 1997. Licensees will remember that the Chevron Hotel case swung
the pendulum in favour of drunken patrons when the Court held that
a licensee was partly liable for injuries of a drunken patron
Licensees then breathed a sigh of relief when the Cole v
South Tweed Heads case did not extend the duty of care of a
licensee to an intoxicated patron leaving the premises. In the case
of Cole, the licensee was not able to keep a close watch on Cole to
ascertain how much liquor she had consumed.
In the Scott case it was established that Mr Scott, a patron of
the Tandara Motor Inn in Tasmania, was killed after leaving the Inn
very intoxicated on a motorcycle. Mr Scott's wife sued the
owner and licensee of the Inn alleging they owed Mr Scott a duty of
While drinking at the Inn it became apparent to Mr Scott that
there was a police breathalyser operation set up on the route he
took to his home. A friend of Mr Scott suggested to the owner of
the Inn that the motorcycle be locked in the Inn's store
The owner of the Inn helped Mr Scott and his friend move the
motorcycle into the store room, locked the storeroom, and then took
the key for the motorcycle from Mr Scott. Mr Scott then continued
drinking. It was the intention then that Mr Scott's wife would
be called to collect him. It was on this basis that the owner of
the Inn continued to serve Mr Scott liquor.
When Mr Scott became intoxicated the owner of the Inn suggested
that he call Mr Scott's wife to collect him. Mr Scott abused
the owner and demanded that the owner return the keys of the
motorcycle to him, which the owner did. The owner assisted Mr Scott
to retrieve the motorcycle from the storeroom.
The actions of the owner in facilitating the storage of the
motorcycle took the relationship between the owner/licensee and Mr
Scott beyond that of a "normal" relationship between a
patron and a licensee. In the Scott case the Inn was located in a
small town, and Mr Scott was known to the owner. The owner knew
that by making simple inquiries he could have obtained the
telephone number for Mr Scott's wife.
The Court held that, although the owner could not prevent Mr
Scott from taking the motorcycle by restraining him or punching
him, the owner could have delayed Mr Scott (the owner held both the
keys to the storeroom and the motorcycle) to enable Mr Scott's
wife to be called to collect him.
This case comes as a sharp warning to smaller licensed premises
where the relationship between the licence and its patrons are
intimate. Although all licensees must take care of their patrons,
licensees of smaller premises must be more vigilant if their
patrons are well known to them and they assist those patrons over
and beyond the assistance normally provided by a licensee.
Licensees of larger premises also need to take note: although
this decision may not directly affect you, it may only be a matter
of time before the Courts are prepared to extend this duty of care
to cover all licensed premises.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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