(CN) – Pharmaceutical representatives may be liable after they bought a New Mexico woman drinks for eight hours and then let her drive drunk, which caused her to crash and ultimately kill a young boy.
Alicia Gonzales ended up with a blood alcohol content level that was twice the legal limit after drinking at an all-day business luncheon, which began at a Chili’s restaurant and concluded in a pair of bars eight hours later.
A quartet of pharmaceutical representatives – two from Schering Corp., one from Abbott Laboratories and another from Merck & Co – had taken Gonzales and her colleagues out for food and drinks in April 2005.
Gonzales was speeding when she crashed into a car driven by Gina Delfino, who was seriously hurt along with her passengers. Delfino’s son did not survive.
Delfino sued the bars and restaurant that had served Gonzales, as well as the pharmaceutical representatives and their employers.
The trial court dismissed the pharmaceutical defendants from the case, however, finding that they did not owe Delfino any duty under the common law or the Liquor Liability Act.
An appellate panel then punted the case to the New Mexico Supreme Court because it presented a unique legal question of public interest.
The five-justice court voted unanimously on April 8 that the pharmaceutical defendants may in fact be liable as social hosts.
“We conclude that the district court erred by granting pharmaceutical defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because plaintiff properly characterized pharmaceutical defendants as social hosts under the Liquor Liability Act,” Justice Patricio Serna wrote for the court.