Underage Drinking, Social Host Liability, & Your Personal Injury Claim
When underage drunk drivers cause accidents, the individuals who furnished the alcohol may be liable.
As summer kicks into high gear, many teenagers will be enjoying more opportunities to party with their friends—and some of these parties will involve alcohol.
If you get into an accident with a teenager who has been drinking, you may have more avenues for compensation than just their car insurance coverage, thanks to the legal concept of social host liability.
What is Social Host Liability?
In many states, social host liability means that hosts can be held liable for any kind of accident caused by guests who were served alcohol at their party. In California, we have a rather limited doctrine of social host liability that applies only to accidents caused by minors. When any adult sells or serves alcohol to a minor in California, that adult can be held liable for any car accidents or other damages caused by the inebriated minor. If a minor serves alcohol to another minor, there is no liability. But if a minor sells alcohol to another minor, they can then be held liable.
Landmark Underage DUI Case Decided by California Supreme Court
In 2014, the California Supreme Court issued an important ruling regarding social host liability for underage DUI accidents.
The case involved the wrongful death of 19-year-old 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, had been served alcohol at that party, and Ennabe’s parents believed that the host of the party should be held responsible for the chain of events that led to their son’s death under the doctrine of social host liability.
A lower court initially dismissed the case because the host of the party was only 20 years old. As mentioned previously, there can be no social host liability when one minor serves alcohol to another.
However, when the California Supreme Court reviewed the case, they pointed out that because there was a cover charge for the party, the host was essentially operating a “pop-up nightclub” and should be held to the same standards of social host liability as any bar or nightclub owner who sold alcohol to minors.
Why This Matters
In the event of a car accident, it is important to target all liable parties, not only to ensure that ample compensation is available to cover all the victim’s injuries and losses, but also to help provide a sense of justice and closure. The rulings on social host liability for underage DUI accidents are important because they highlight another angle that must be considered and investigated before making a car accident injury claim.
If you have questions about a car accident caused by an underage drunk driver, please contact the Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas at 909-982-0707.