Rhode Island Supreme Court Issues Drunk Driving Decision

In May of 2012, the Rhode Island Supreme Court issued its decision in Gushlaw v. Milner. The case involved drunk driving and social host liability. An underage man and his friend drove together to a party where the man had alcohol. His friend then drove the man back to his car. While driving home the man was involved in a fatal car accident, killing himself and another driver. The family of the man who was killed filed a wrongful death suit against the drunk driver's friend, arguing that the friend had been negligent in allowing the man to drive.

In its decision, the Supreme Court noted that this was a case of first impression, whether or not to recognize a duty, "one that places an affirmative obligation on an adult individual to prevent a third party from operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol." The Court's analysis focused on whether a special relationship existed between the drunk man and his friend who drove the man to his car or the friend and the victim. The Court held that there was no special relationship between the parties involved and that to impose liability would create a new cause of action, which the Court termed "designated driver duty." The Court reasoned, it is the duty of the General Assembly and the legislative process to create new causes of action.

If you or a family member have been charged with drunk driving, refusal to submit to a chemical test or social host liability, please allow Attorney Robert H. Humphrey's reputation, experience and skill to successfully guide you through the legal process. Please contact Robert H. Humphrey, Esq., at 401-816-5862 or e-mail him at

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