Patton v. Carnrike, No. 78-CV-464.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of New York
Citation510 F. Supp. 625
Docket NumberNo. 78-CV-464.
PartiesRichard A. PATTON, Administrator of the Estate of Carl W. Patton, Deceased, and Richard and Betty Patton, in Their Own Right, Plaintiffs, v. Charles CARNRIKE and Susan Carnrike, a/k/a Marlene Carnrike, d/b/a Carnrike's Market, Defendants.
Decision Date06 March 1981

510 F. Supp. 625

Richard A. PATTON, Administrator of the Estate of Carl W. Patton, Deceased, and Richard and Betty Patton, in Their Own Right, Plaintiffs,
Charles CARNRIKE and Susan Carnrike, a/k/a Marlene Carnrike, d/b/a Carnrike's Market, Defendants.

No. 78-CV-464.

United States District Court, N. D. New York.

March 6, 1981.

510 F. Supp. 626

Smith, Sovik, Kendrick, McAuliffe & Schwarzer by Martin F. Kendrick, Syracuse, N. Y., for plaintiffs.

Friedlander, Friedlander & Reizes by Peter N. Littman, Waverly, N. Y., for defendants.


MacMAHON, District Judge.*

Plaintiffs seek damages, pursuant to New York's Dram Shop Act,1 for injuries allegedly sustained by their decedent son in a single vehicle highway accident. Defendants have asserted an affirmative defense and counterclaim, alleging plaintiffs' failure to exercise proper parental supervision of their son's conduct. Plaintiffs now move to strike this defense and counterclaim, arguing that lack of parental supervision was not cognizable as a defense or as a counterclaim under the applicable law of New York. Defendants contend, however, that Pennsylvania law applies and that Pennsylvania does recognize such a defense and counterclaim.

Having carefully negotiated the labyrinth of New York's choice of law rules, we find that New York governs our disposition of this issue and requires us to grant the motion to strike the defense and counterclaim.


The parties have adopted the same set of essential facts for the purposes of this motion. These facts are also consistent with those set up in defendants' answer.2

Decedent Carl W. Patton was a seventeen-year old who resided with his parents in Pennsylvania. William Bryan was a companion of Patton's, who, at the time of the accident, was also a minor and a resident of Pennsylvania. On the evening of September 10, 1977, Bryan borrowed his sister's car and, accompanied by Patton, drove to Waverly, New York, which is situated just north of the border between the two states.

510 F. Supp. 627

In Waverly, Bryan allegedly purchased two six-packs of beer at defendants' store. Although New York law forbids the sale of alcoholic beverages, including beer, to persons under the age of eighteen,3 no effort was allegedly made to determine Bryan's age before he was permitted to purchase the beer.

It is further alleged that both youths began to drink the beer as Bryan drove the car along the highway. Bryan allegedly became intoxicated and lost control of the car, which struck an embankment and overturned near East Smithfield, Pennsylvania. Patton is claimed to have incurred fatal injuries in the accident.


Jurisdiction in this case is grounded on diversity of citizenship. Therefore, the choice of law rules of the forum state, New York, govern this action.4 Our consideration of New York's choice of law rule, however, is contingent on the existence of an actual conflict5 between the law of the states which have contact with the events at issue in this litigation.

Pennsylvania has long held that in tort actions the contributory negligence of a minor's parents for their failure to supervise the child's conduct is a question of fact for the jury.6 New York, on the other hand, has recently reaffirmed that it will not recognize a tort or defense grounded in parents' failure to supervise children.7 Therefore, we find that there is a clear conflict between the law of Pennsylvania and New York concerning the availability to defendants of this defense and counterclaim. Having found that New York's choice of law rules are implicated, we must now identify what those rules are and which laws those rules would apply to resolve this conflict.

In Babcock v. Jackson,8 the New York Court of Appeals held that lex loci delicti would no longer be the invariable rule in tort actions. Rather, lex loci will be displaced by the law of the state which, because of its relationship or contact with the occurrence or parties, has the greatest concern with the specific issue raised in the litigation.9

Recent pronouncements, however, establish that lex loci remains the general rule in tort cases, to be displaced only in "extraordinary circumstances" when doing so would "advance the relevant substantive law purposes of the jurisdiction involved."10 Judge Breitel has suggested that lex loci is to be "rejected only when it is evident that the situs of the accident is the least of the several factors or influences to which the

510 F. Supp. 628
accident may be attributed."11 The full court signalled its approval of the latter test when it noted in a later decision that the site of an airplane crash is "most often fortuitous."12

We believe that this action, which arises under the New York Dram Shop Act and which involves an interstate automobile trip, is an extraordinary situation necessitating the displacement of lex loci by the interests analysis formulated in Babcock and its progeny.13 Plaintiffs' claim under the New York Dram Shop Act is grounded on an unlawful sale of liquor that caused or contributed to the intoxication of Bryan, who, in turn, allegedly injured decedent by driving while intoxicated. Although these factors connected with the crash site will be relevant, the alleged unlawful sale of alcohol in New York is, under plaintiffs' theory of liability, the most "significant event in this multi-state trip."14 Assuming that Bryan was intoxicated while driving, the actual site of the crash was largely "fortuitous." We thus conclude that, in a Dram Shop action for injuries sustained in a highway accident, the importance of the crash site is clearly overshadowed by the location of the unlawful sale of liquor.15

Analyzing the interests of Pennsylvania and New York at stake in this action, we find that "the relevant substantive law purposes" of New York would be advanced by the application of its rule barring a defense or counterclaim based on improper parental supervision. Initially, we note our disagreement with defendants' contention that this issue must be analyzed solely in terms of whether New York or Pennsylvania has a superior interest in having a law governing parental supervision apply to a family residing in Pennsylvania. The conflict between these two competing laws regulating intrafamilial relations cannot be resolved in a vacuum. Rather, the conflict arises in the context of a defense and counterclaim to an action under the New York Dram Shop Act. Therefore, we must assess the relative interests of New York and Pennsylvania in applying their respective laws of parental supervision to the events underlying this action.

The New York Dram Shop Act created a statutory cause of action unknown at common law.16 Under the statute, any person who unlawfully sells alcohol to an individual is held strictly liable17 if that individual becomes intoxicated and causes injury to a third person. The dual purposes of the Act are "to prevent unlawful sales of liquor and to provide a remedy for injuries occasioned by one who was instrumental in wrongfully producing or wrongfully causing such intoxication."18

Addressing first the deterrent aspect of the Act, we observe that New York has made sales of liquor to minors a violation of Section 65 of its Alcoholic Beverage Control

510 F. Supp. 629
Law. In recognition of the harm which may be caused by the intoxicated individual, the legislature designed Section 65 to protect children from their own immaturity and inexperience with liquor.19 The seriousness with which New York views liquor sales to minors is evidenced by the fact that such sales are malum prohibitum20 and a violation of the penal...

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6 cases
  • Pardey v. Boulevard Billiard Club, 84-373-Appeal
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Rhode Island
    • 22 December 1986
    ...the accident because, when an intoxicated person is driving, the actual site of the crash is largely fortuitous. See Patton v. Carnrike, 510 F. Supp. 625 (N.D.N.Y. Another factor that is weighed in conflict-of-laws questions, predictability of result, concerns enabling parties to know befor......
  • W.S.R v. FCA U.S., LLC, 18-CV-6961 (KMK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 30 September 2022
    ...of the child.” Banks by Banks v. United States, 969 F.Supp. 884, 894 (S.D.N.Y. 1997) (citations omitted); see also Patton v. Carnrike, 510 F.Supp. 625, 627 (N.D.N.Y. 1981) (“New York . . . has recently reaffirmed that it will not recognize a tort or defense grounded in parents' failure to s......
  • Sommers v. 13300 Brandon Corp., 89 C 0704.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • 9 May 1989
    ...the accident. See Pardey v. Boulevard Billiard Club, 518 A.2d 1349, 1352 (R.I.1986) (applying law of place of sale); Patton v. Carnrike, 510 F.Supp. 625, 628 (N.D.N.Y.1981) (same); Trapp v. 4-10 Investment Corp., 424 F.2d 1261, 1265 (8th Cir.1970) (same); Carver v. Schafer, 647 S.W.2d 570, ......
  • Davis v. Stinson, 55A04-8701-CV-12
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 2 June 1987
    ...actions such as IC 7.1-5-10-15; see Soronen v. Milford Inn, Inc. (1966), 46 N.J. 582, 218 A.2d 630; Patton v. Carnrike (N.D.N.Y.1981), 510 F.Supp. 625; Vance v. U.S. (Alaska 1973), 355 F.Supp. 756. Indiana, however, follows a different rule, as discussed...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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