Quest for deep pockets: the homeowners’ insurer had already thrown in its policy limits over an accident in which an 18 year old guest allowed to consume alcohol at a private home had injured himself in a car crash. Now an Ocean County, N.J. judge has ruled that the party host’s auto insurer can also be obliged to provide coverage under a general liability endorsement, ruling it irrelevant that the accident had nothing to do with the insured’s own cars. [New Jersey Law Journal]
Following a lobbying campaign by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 28 states (up from 18 seven years ago) now assign criminal penalties to property owners when underage drinking occurs on their property, with no need to show that the parents or other owners actually furnished alcohol, and whether or not any accident or other injury resulted. [ABA Journal] Liability is sometimes based on hazy “should have known” or negligence concepts, and a MADD brochure (PDF) explains that criminal liability can extend to “Parents away from home when their teens host a party; Parents who are present but deny knowledge of drinking on their property; Owners and/or tenants of rural property; Owners of vacant property.”
In 2005 we covered a Virginia appeals court’s ruling upholding the sentencing of a father and mother to 27 months in jail — originally eight years, before a sentence reduction — for allowing drinking at a 16-year-old’s birthday party. (& Alkon)
“A man who overdosed on stolen drugs he ingested at a party in 2007 has settled his lawsuit with a pharmacy, several guests, the party’s host and the host’s mother for $4.1 million. … [Scott] Simon sued the pharmacy for not taking proper precautions to avoid the theft of drugs. He also sued several guests, the party’s host and the host’s parents, who were away for the weekend.” [AP via NJLRA, Schepisi & McLaughlin]
In 1997 the New Jersey legislature enacted a law stating that a convicted drunk driver “shall have no cause of action for his or her injuries,” but a state appeals court decided that was no reason not to allow such a driver to sue the drinking establishment that allegedly should have cut him off earlier. An earlier appeals case had allowed such suits against “social hosts” such as party-givers. [AnnMarie McDonald/NJLRA, Henry Gottlieb/NJLJ]
A California appeals court has declined plaintiffs’ invitation to hold that “a public invitation posted on MySpace to a free party offering music and alcohol was substantially certain to result in an injury to someone.” Three men were “allegedly attacked by a group of unknown individuals as they arrived at the party,” which was thrown by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and announced on the social media site. [OnPoint News]
A late-night binge drinking outing by some high school friends in Norfolk, Mass. ends badly. The mother says her late daughter “is absolutely 100 percent responsible” for what happened to her but is still is suing seven (7) teenagers and adults for their roles. [Boston Globe]
George Baldwin, then 19, drank while visiting the Pfeifer sisters at their home; he got into the car as a passenger with intoxicated friend William Klairmont and was paralyzed in the resulting crash. Now Lauralee Pfeifer, the girls’ mother, will pay $2.5 million in a settlement:
Unlike other lawsuits alleging that adults played a role in teenage drinking parties, Pfeifer did not buy the alcohol for the teens or know they were drinking in her home. Pfeifer did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement, said Michael Borders, her lawyer.
But Salvi said Pfeifer should have monitored the teens and suspected they were drinking, especially because her daughters had been caught drinking before.
Social-host liability for party-givers in Canada. Quotes University of Alberta law professor Lewis Klar (Edmonton Journal, Dec. 31).