The California Supreme Court is considering whether the hosts of drinking parties where there is a cover charge are considered sellers of alcohol, who aren’t entitled to immunity for serving alcohol to drunk guests.
The court will consider the issue in the case of Jessica Manosa, who was 20 in 2007 when she decided to throw a party at an unoccupied rental parent owned by her parents. She didn’t have their permission to do so.
Word of Manosa’s party spread by text message, and many of the guests didn’t know their host. The attendees drank liquor, danced and got intoxicated. One guest was asked to leave after he began dropping his pants while dancing, according to court records. He drove way, running over a 19-year-old student who was also at the party. The student was killed. His parents are now seeking to hold Manosa and her parents liable for his death.
The case will determine whether young people who host underage drinking parties and charge admission can be held liable if a drunk guest hurts themselves or another person. The Supreme Court’s ruling could set a major precedent – currently, the law has long protected party hosts in California from alcohol-related lawsuits. The Supreme Court in the 1970’s made social hosts who serve alcohol to drunk guests liable for their harmful behavior, but the state legislature carved out an exception for individuals who sell alcohol in this kind of setting.
The lower courts have ruled that the cover charge of $3-$5 that Manosa implemented was simply to defray the cost of the alcohol, and not to turn a profit – thus rendering Manosa not liable.
Meanwhile, Thomas Garcia – the intoxicated man who struck the student – pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and received a 14-year prison sentence. According to The Los Angeles Times, Garcia said he’d been drinking heavily before he arrived at Manosa’s party and had no memory of striking Andrew Ennabe.
California laws regarding drunk driving are some of the toughest in the nation. California law is also becoming harsher servers of alcohol. If you or a family member is facing such a situation whether in terms of civil or criminal liability, call an experienced Bay Area Defense attorney for a consultation!