blog home Drunk Driving Accident California High Court Ruling Assigns Liability to Hosts in Liquor Cases Involving Underage Minors

By Renee Nordstrand on February 28, 2014

car keys sitting next to an alcoholic drink

The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously this week that hosts who charge admission to parties may be held legally responsible if a drunken underage guest is hurt or injures someone else. The cover charge amounts to a sale of alcohol and state law creates liability for those who sell alcohol to obviously intoxicated minors. The court erred on the side of permitting liability in order to provide a strong deterrent against the provision of alcohol to minors. This ruling could open the way for lawsuits against minors as long as cover charges were involved.

In the 1970s, the California Supreme Court made social hosts who serve alcohol to intoxicated guests legally liable for their harmful behavior. The Legislature responded by creating immunity for hosts, but later carved out an exception for individuals who sell alcohol, whether or not they are licensed. The Legislature has further expanded liability, making parents, guardians and “any adult: responsible if they knowingly serve alcohol at their homes to minors.” That law affects only adult hosts.

If you believe you have a case, please contact one of our experienced and knowledgeable attorney’s for a free consultation to discuss your legal options. Call our Santa Barbara office at (805) 962-2022 or our Encino office at (818) 981-3530. Or contact us online. Your consultation is free and completely confidential.