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Moms Don’t Let their Kid’s Friends Drive Drunk

house-party.jpgOne of the laws we spend a lot of time on in first-year Torts was the dram shop laws, which hold bars and liquor stores liable if they sell alcohol to a visibly drunk person or a minor who goes out and injures someone while intoxicated. That same liability, of course, extends to serving alcohol to minors or other drunks at a house party, which briefly made many a law student nervous about refilling a buddy’s shot glass while he was at their house. Here’s why:

A Lake Forest woman’s homeowners insurance will pay $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a young man who was paralyzed in a crash that occurred after an underage drinking party in her home.
The settlement between Lauralee Pfeifer, whose teenage daughters hosted the party, and George Baldwin, 22, was approved Wednesday by Judge Christopher Starck in Lake County Circuit Court.
In 2006, Baldwin, then a 19-year-old Lake Forest High School graduate, went to Pfeifer’s home with a friend, William Klairmont, then 18 and also from Lake Forest. They were visiting Pfeifer’s daughters, and all drank beer in the girls’ bedroom.
Klairmont was intoxicated when he drove home and lost control of his car in Lake Bluff, said Patrick Salvi, Baldwin’s lawyer. Baldwin, a passenger, was injured.

And that, folks, is why all your parties should have a key master.

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QuizLaw, this is from Chicago. Check out the following California law:


California Civil Code section 1714 (look at subdivision (c)):

§ 1714. Responsibility for willful acts and negligence; contributory negligence

(a) Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself. The design, distribution, or marketing of firearms and ammunition is not exempt from the duty to use ordinary care and skill that is required by this section. The extent of liability in these cases is defined by the Title on Compensatory Relief.

(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to abrogate the holdings in cases such as Vesely v. Sager (1971) 5 Cal.3d 153, Bernhard v. Harrah's Club (1976) 16 Cal.3d 313, and Coulter v. Superior Court (1978) 21 Cal.3d 144 and to reinstate the prior judicial interpretation of this section as it relates to proximate cause for injuries incurred as a result of furnishing alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person, namely that the furnishing of alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries resulting from intoxication, but rather the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person.

(c) No social host who furnishes alcoholic beverages to any person may be held legally accountable for damages suffered by that person, or for injury to the person or property of, or death of, any third person, resulting from the consumption of those beverages.

(Emphasis added.)

Business & Professions Code section 25602 ( see subdivisions (b) & (c)):

§ 25602. Sales to drunkard or intoxicated person; offense; civil liability

(a) Every person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage to any habitual or common drunkard or to any obviously intoxicated person is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(b) No person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage pursuant to subdivision (a) of this section shall be civilly liable to any injured person or the estate of such person for injuries inflicted on that person as a result of intoxication by the consumer of such alcoholic beverage.

(c) The Legislature hereby declares that this section shall be interpreted so that the holdings in cases such as Vesely v. Sager (5 Cal.3d 153), Bernhard v. Harrah's Club (16 Cal.3d 313) and Coulter v. Superior Court (_____ Cal.3d _____) [FN1] be abrogated in favor of prior judicial interpretation finding the consumption of alcoholic beverages rather than the serving of alcoholic beverages as the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person.

(Emphasis added.)

And check out Bass v. Pratt , 177 Cal. App. 3d 129, 132 (1st Dist. 1983), upholding a grant of summary judgment (based on the statutory immunity provided in Civil Code section 1714 and Business & Professions Code section 25602) in favor of parents who provided alcohol to minors who were then involved in a fatal car accident:

In 1978 the Legislature amended Civil Code section 1714 and Business and Professions Code section 25602 in order to create a broad statutory immunity against civil liability for social hosts who furnish alcoholic beverages to any person.FN3 The **726 amendments effectively reinstated the prior common law as expressed in Cole v. Rush (1955) 45 Cal.2d 345, 356, 289 P.2d 450, "that as to a competent person it is the voluntary consumption, not the sale or gift, of intoxicating liquor which is the proximate cause of injury from its use...."

FN3. The 1978 amendments added subdivisions (b) and (c) to Civil Code section 1714: "(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to abrogate the holdings in cases such as Vesely v. Sager [ (1971) ] 5 Cal.3d 153 [95 Cal.Rptr. 623, 486 P.2d 151], Bernhard v. Harrah's Club [ (1976) ] 16 Cal.3d 313 [128 Cal.Rptr. 215, 546 P.2d 719], and Coulter v. Superior Court [ (1978) ] 21 Cal.3d 144 [145 Cal.Rptr. 534, 577 P.2d 669] and to reinstate the prior judicial interpretation of this section as it relates to proximate cause for injuries incurred as a result of furnishing alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person, namely that the furnishing of alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries resulting from intoxication, but rather the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person."(c) No social host who furnishes alcoholic beverages to any person shall be held legally accountable for damages suffered by such person, or for injury to the person or property of, or death of, any third person, resulting from the consumption of such beverages."

The 1978 amendments also added subdivisions (b) and (c) to Business and Professions Code section 25602: "(b) No person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage pursuant to subdivision (a) of this section shall be civilly liable to any injured person or the estate of such person for injuries inflicted on that person as a result of intoxication by the consumer of such alcoholic beverage.

"(c) The Legislature hereby declares that this section shall be interpreted so that the holdings in cases such as Vesely v. Sager [ (1971) ] 5 Cal.3d 153 [95 Cal.Rptr. 623, 486 P.2d 151], Bernhard v. Harrah's Club [ (1976) ] 16 Cal.3d 313 [128 Cal.Rptr. 215, 546 P.2d 719] and Coulter v. Superior Court [ (1978) ] 21 Cal.3d 144 [145 Cal.Rptr. 534, 577 P.2d 669] be abrogated in favor of prior judicial interpretation finding the consumption of alcoholic beverages rather than the serving of alcoholic beverages as the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person."

Ciao!


I'm pretty sure that Tennessee doesn't have any sort of Social Host liability law like that. What we do have is Biscan v. Brown, 160 S.W.3d 162 (Tenn. 2005).

There was an underage party with drinking going on at a fairly nice house outside of Nashville (rich kids). Dad was supposedly chaperoning this event, but he was in the main house, kind of napping in front of the TV while the kids were outside (or in the barn or poolhouse, I can't remember). One of the teenage girls got wasted and her boyfriend came to pick her up. He wasn't attending the party most of the night, but he had been drinking elsewhere. Needless to say, they got into a wreck and she was seriously injured or killed.

Pseudo-chaperone dad (not the father of the injured girl, to clarify) was held liable because he let the girl drink, and even though she wasn't the one driving when she was injured, and dad had nothing to do with the drinking the driver had done that night, dad was responsible for the girl's "poor judgment," which had been compromised by the drinking and caused her to get into a car with a drunk driver.

You just can't make up a theory of liability like that.

I'm totally bookmarking this page in case this issue ever comes up in my practice... or personal life. Thanks for the memo, Kelly!

You're welcome!

Thought it was odd for a CA lawblog to post the result in Chicago when California law is totally different.

Note that in the case of minors the authorities may still be able to come after you criminally... but at least you know that you probably won't get hit with a multi-million-dollar civil suit.

Repeated Disclaimer: I have not thoroughly researched this issue. Please consult an attorney. This post and all prior and subsequent posts are for entertainment purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice.

=)

(Had to add that second disclaimer when I saw that someone is going to bookmark the page and might actually rely on my prior post!)