Important Update to California Social Host Liability Law

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Important Update to California Social Host Liability Law

California Supreme Court rules party hosts liable for actions of drunken underage guests if a cover is charged

social host liabilityOn Monday, February 24, the California Supreme Court issued a ruling that will impact who can be held responsible for injuries caused by drunken underage party guests.

The ruling came as the result of a lawsuit brought by the parents of a 19-year-old college student, Andrew Ennabe, who was killed by a drunk driver at a house party in Diamond Bar CA in 2007. The drunk driver, 20-year-old Thomas Garcia, is currently serving 14 years for manslaughter. Ennabe’s family sued the host of the party to try to secure further justice and compensation for their loss, but a lower court dismissed their case because under the court’s interpretation of the law, no “social host liability” could be proven.

What is Social Host Liability?

Many states have laws regarding social host liability. In some states, party hosts can be held responsible for any kind of accident caused by any guests who were served alcohol at their party. In other states, the guests must be under 21 for social host liability to apply.

California’s laws regarding liability for providing alcohol to intoxicated persons have been evolving for decades. In 1978, the law was changed to eliminate liability for party hosts and for bars and retailers selling alcohol to adults. This meant that only businesses selling alcohol to obviously intoxicated minors risked liability issues. More recently, a law was passed to extend liability to any adult who sold or served alcohol to a minor.

A Cover Charge Can Be Considered a Liquor Sale

When the Ennabe case was initially considered, the court found that the $3 to $5 cover fee charged for entrance to the party was not the same as selling drinks to minors. Furthermore, because the host was only 20 years old herself, the part of the law extending liability to adults serving alcohol to minors could not apply either. However, upon review by the California Supreme Court, the higher court ruled that by charging a cover the party’s host was operating a “pop-up nightclub” and therefore should be held to the same standards as a bar or nightclub, which can be held liable for the actions of inebriated minors. The case has been sent back to the lower court for consideration.

Be Sure You Target All Liable Parties in a Personal Injury Suit

If you have been injured in any kind of accident, there may be more than one party at fault. As this ruling shows, it can sometimes be difficult to untangle the implications of various laws and hold all responsible parties accountable for negligent actions that contributed to your injury. Fortunately, you can get the help you need from an expert personal injury attorney such as Fernando D. Vargas. Call now for a free initial consultation.


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