Case Brief: Sutter V. Hutchings

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Case Brief: Sutter v. Hutchings

Case Name, Citation & Court:

Sutter v. Hutchings, 254 Ga. 194, 327 S.E.2d 717, Georgia Supreme Court, decided 1985.

Parties & Procedural History:

Trial Court level: Plaintiff Sutter sues Defendant Hutchings. Defendant filed summary judgment motion, and court granted judgment in favor of Defendant. Plaintiff appealed.

First appeal: Ga. Court of Appeals affirmed judgment for defendant. Plaintiff appeals again to Ga. Supreme Court.


Mrs. Susan Hutchings permitted her 17-year old daughter to provide a keg of beer at a party the daughter was having at their home for some high school classmates. Mrs. Hutchings, as hostess, observed a 17-year old guest, Carlton Turner, engaged in a drinking game called “quarters.” When Turner left at 11:30 PM, the keg was empty and he was noticeably intoxicated, having consumed the equivalent of 7 bottles of beer. Mrs. Hutchings expressed concern over his driving ability, but watched him get into his car. Less than 4 miles away, he sped through a red light and killed David Sutter. Sutter’s widow is suing Mrs. Hutchings and her daughter.

Plaintiff’s Cause of Action: negligence

Issue: Whether a person who furnishes alcohol to a noticeably intoxicated person under the legal drinking age, knowing that such person would soon be driving, is liable to a third person injured by the negligence of the intoxicated driver.

Defendant’s Argument: Mrs. Sutter was not serving the alcohol. The teenage guests in her house at her daughter’s party were serving themselves. Unlike commercial liquor establishments, they have no bouncers to prevent drunken drivers from leaving. The common law rule creates no cause of action against someone who provides alcohol to someone who voluntarily becomes intoxicated, and consequently injures himself or someone else.

Rule (of Law that answers the Issue in this case):

A host/hostess owes a duty to those using the highways to not...
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