Parents win $1.5m in fight against liquor store

A US couple has been awarded US$1.5 million – the largest settlement ever made public in the state of Oklahoma – after a liquor store sold vodka to their underage son who was later involved in a fatal car crash.

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Colton Kerns

Colton Kerns, 17, had been decorating for his school prom in on 20 April, 2012, when he was able to purchase alcohol from a store clerk working at the Woodshed Liquor Store in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, as reported by

On returning to school the intoxicated boy was sent home and expelled, but later turned around and drove back to school, according to court documents.

He later he sent text messages to students of himself wearing a prom suit with the message that “this was the last time that they were going to hear from him because he was going to outrun the police”. Soon after he crashed his vehicle and was killed. An autopsy report showed Colton Kern’s blood-alcohol level registered 0.13 – the legal limit in Oklahoma is 0.08.

Surveillance footage showed Kerns being sold vodka on several occasions without being asking for ID by a clerk at the liquor store. After a long court battle, his parents were this week awarded $1.5m in damages, and insisted the amount was made public.

“We wanted the amount of the settlement public and we wanted all of the employees at Woodshed Liquor Store undergo training on selling alcohol to minors,” said Donna Kerns. “We want to prevent alcohol sales to minors.”

She added: “It was never about money. It’s been a big long fight.”

The Kerns were told their settlement against Woodshed Liquor Store was the largest settlement ever made public in the state’s history.

One Response to “Parents win $1.5m in fight against liquor store”

  1. Peter Bowyer says:

    There is always someone else to blame if you have the right lawyer…

    If the parents were so worried about sales of alcohol to minors why did they not instal this philosophy into their own child from a very early age?

    Whilst sales to minors are obviulsy regretable, and the consequences in this particular incident were tragic, what all should be encouraging is a parental responsibility to ensure that their offspring are carefully brought up and fully informed about the damgers lurking everywhere in this world – including underage drinking, as well as drinking and driving etc etc

    I feel great sympathy for the shop and its employees, not least that I doubt that any insurance they might have in place will cover this award. Would it be reasonably forseeable – the usual UK legal test – for sales to an underage drinking to result in his trying to “outrun the Police” in a car? I don’t think the actual consequences could have been reasonably predicted and would hope that a UK court would come to a different conclusion.

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