The California Supreme Court Says Animal House Can Be Liable For Injuries Caused By Drunk Minors Who Paid To Get In.

Got an underage party planned? Rethink whether to serve that drink, or at least whether to charge for it.

In Ennabe v. Manosa (Feb. 24, 2014, 2014 WL 701894), the California Supreme Court has ruled that there is no civil immunity for a party hostess for damages resulting from the actions of an underage intoxicated guest who was charged admission to the party. The Court held that because admission was charged, the defendant party hostess was potentially liable under statutory law as a “seller” of alcohol to an obviously intoxicated underage person.

In Ennabe, the defendant, a young woman under the age of 21, hosted a party at a vacation residence owned by her parents without their consent. The hostess personally provided money for the purchase of alcohol. At her request, another attendee charged uninvited guests an admission fee, allegedly to cover the cost of the alcohol.

An uninvited guest under the age of 21 arrived and was charged admission. He was visibly intoxicated, and drank more at the party. Eventually, he became rowdy and left. While leaving, he killed another guest with his car.

Plaintiffs, parents of the decedent, asserted three causes of action against the hostess and her parents: general negligence, premises liability, and liability under California Business & Professions Code Section 25602.1, which permits liability for “any person” who sells, or causes to be sold, alcohol to an obviously intoxicated minor.

The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment to the defendant party hostess because her actions constituted a “sale” rendering her potentially liable as a person who sold alcohol to an obviously intoxicated minor. Summary judgment for the parents had not been appealed and they are out of the case.

The Court explained that a “sale” of alcohol, is defined as “any transaction” for “any consideration.” The payment of an “cover charge” constituted a “sale”, irrespective of the fact that possession of particular drink did not occur immediately upon payment. The Court distinguished “casual reimbursement among friends who have agreed to purchase alcohol together.” In Ennabe, the defendant operated “what was in essence a pop-up nightclub that required a cover charge for entry,” and thus was outside the general rule of social host immunity from lawsuits.

The Court concluded that the defendant party hostess was a person who sold alcoholic beverages to a minor who was obviously intoxicated. Because his intoxication was the proximate cause of decedent’s death, potential liability existed, and the summary judgment in favor of defendants was reversed.

Got an underage party planned? Rethink whether to serve that drink, or at least whether to charge for it. In Ennabe v. Manosa (Feb. 24, 2014, 2014 WL 701894), the California Supreme Court has ruled that there is no civil immunity for a party hostess for damages resulting from the actions of an underage intoxicated […]