Liability of Social Host in California
Prior to January 1, 2011, a social host who furnished alcoholic beverages to any person would have no liability for damages sustained by that person or for injury to the person or property of, or death, of any 3rd person resulting from the consumption of those alcoholic beverages. The court reasoned that it was not the furnishing of alcohol that was the proximate cause of injuries or death to the intoxicated person, but rather it was that person’s consumption of alcohol that was the proximate cause.
However, that law was amended in 2011. Effective January 1, 2011, California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1714 was amended to extend liability to a social host who was a parent, guardian or another adult who knowingly provides alcohol at their residence to a person under 21 years of age. In this instance, the furnishing of the alcohol may be found to be the proximate cause of resulting personal injuries, death, or property damage to the person who was served the alcohol or to other persons.
The pertinent section of Section 1714 of the California Civil Code reads as follows:
” (a) Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself… (applicable portion of paragraph (a) )
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to abrogate the holdings in cases such as Vesely v. Sager (1971) 5 Cal.3d 153, Bernhard v. Harrah’s Club (1976) 16 Cal.3d 313, and Coulter v. Superior Court (1978) 21 Cal.3d 144 and to reinstate the prior judicial interpretation of this section as it relates to proximate cause for injuries incurred as a result of furnishing alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person, namely that the furnishing of alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries resulting from intoxication, but rather the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person.
(c) Except as provided in subdivision (d), no social host who furnishes alcoholic beverages to any person may be held legally accountable for damages suffered by that person, or for injury to the person or property of, or death of, any third person, resulting from the consumption of those beverages.
(d) (1) Nothing in subdivision (c) shall preclude a claim against a parent, guardian, or another adult who knowingly furnishes alcoholic beverages at his or her residence to a person under 21 years of age, in which case, notwithstanding subdivision (b), the furnishing of the alcoholic beverage may be found to be the proximate cause of resulting injuries or death.
(2) A claim under this subdivision may be brought by, or on behalf of, the person under 21 years of age, or by a person who was harmed by the person under 21 years of age.”