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Bradshaw v. Rawlings

decided: December 17, 1979.

BRADSHAW, DONALD; CUNEO, ALFRED AND CUNEO, CAROLE, APPELLANTS,
v.
BRUCE D. RAWLINGS, GILBERT D. RAWLINGS, BOROUGH OF DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA, DELAWARE VALLEY COLLEGE, MARJORIE E. MOYER, T/A SUNNY BEVERAGES, MAENNERCHOR SOCIETY, SAAB MOTOR COMPANY; BRADSHAW, DONALD; CUNEO, ALFRED AND CUNEO, CAROLE V. BRUCE D. RAWLINGS, GILBERT D. RAWLINGS, BOROUGH OF DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA, DELAWARE VALLEY COLLEGE, MARJORIE E. MOYER, T/A SUNNY BEVERAGES, MAENNERCHOR SOCIETY, SAAB MOTOR COMPANY BOROUGH OF DOYLESTOWN, APPELLANT ; BRADSHAW, DONALD; CUNEO, ALFRED AND CUNEO, CAROLE V. BRUCE D. RAWLINGS, GILBERT D. RAWLINGS, BOROUGH OF DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA, DELAWARE VALLEY COLLEGE, MARJORIE E. MOYER, T/A SUNNY BEVERAGES, MAENNERCHOR SOCIETY, SAAB MOTOR COMPANY DELAWARE VALLEY COLLEGE, APPELLANT ; BRADSHAW, DONALD; CUNEO, ALFRED AND CUNEO, CAROLE V. BRUCE D. RAWLINGS, GILBERT D. RAWLINGS, BOROUGH OF DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA, DELAWARE VALLEY COLLEGE, MARJORIE E. MOYER, T/A SUNNY BEVERAGES, MAENNERCHOR SOCIETY, SAAB MOTOR COMPANY, MARJORIE M0YER T/A SUNNY BEVERAGES, APPELLANT .



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (D.C. Civil No. 77-0048)

Before Aldisert and Hunter, Circuit Judges, and Meanor, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Aldisert

Opinion OF THE COURT

The major question for decision in this diversity case tried under Pennsylvania law is whether a college may be subject to tort liability for injuries sustained by one of its students involved in an automobile accident when the driver of the car was a fellow student who had become intoxicated at a class picnic. Another question relates to the liability of the distributor who furnished beer for the picnic which led to the intoxication of the driver. Still another question concerns the tort liability of the municipality where the plaintiff's injuries occurred.

The district court permitted the question of negligence to go to the jury against the college, the beer distributor and the municipality. From an adverse verdict of $1,108,067 each of the defendants has appealed, advancing separate arguments for reversal. The plaintiff has filed a conditional cross-appeal.*fn1

I.

Donald Bradshaw, an eighteen year old student at Delaware Valley College, was severely injured on April 13, 1975 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, while a backseat passenger in a Saab automobile driven by a fellow student, Bruce Rawlings.*fn2 Both were sophomores and had attended their class picnic at a grove owned by the Maennerchor Society on the outskirts of the borough.*fn3 Returning to the college from the picnic, Rawlings drove through Doylestown on Union Street. Union Street is colloquially known as "Dip Street" because it was constructed with drainage dips, instead of sewers, to carry surface water runoff. While proceeding through one of the dips, Rawlings lost control of the automobile which then struck a parked vehicle. As a result of the collision Bradshaw suffered a cervical fracture which caused quadriplegia.

The picnic, although not held on college grounds, was an annual activity of the sophomore class. A faculty member who served as sophomore class advisor participated with the class officers in planning the picnic and co-signed a check for class funds that was later used to purchase beer. The advisor did not attend the picnic, nor did he get another faculty member to attend in his place. Flyers announcing the picnic were prominently displayed across the campus. They were mimeographed by the college duplicating facility and featured drawings of beer mugs. Approximately seventy-five students attended the picnic and consumed six or seven half-kegs of beer. The beer was ordered from Marjorie Moyer, trading as Sunny Beverages, by the sophomore class president who was underage.

The legal drinking age in Pennsylvania was, and is, twenty-one years, but the great majority of the students drinking at the picnic were sophomores of either nineteen or twenty years of age. Rawlings had been at the picnic for a number of hours. He testified that he had no recollection of what occurred from the time he left the picnic until after the accident. Bradshaw testified that Rawlings had been drinking and another witness, Warren Wylde, expressed his opinion that Rawlings was under the influence of alcohol when he left the picnic grove. That there was sufficient evidence on the question of Rawlings' intoxication to submit to the jury cannot be seriously questioned.

II.

On appeal, the college argues that Bradshaw failed to present sufficient evidence to establish that it owed him a duty for the breach of which it could be held liable in tort. The district court, apparently assuming that such a duty existed, submitted the question of the college's liability to the jury, stating:

In any event, the college owes a duty to use due care under the circumstances to prevent an unreasonable risk of harm to sophomores who attend a class function. Restatement (Second) of Torts §§ 282 and 283 (1965) provide:

§ 282. Negligence Defined

In the Restatement of this Subject, negligence is conduct which falls below the standard established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. It does not include conduct recklessly disregardful of an interest in others.

§ 283. Conduct of a ...


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