At approximately 1:38 a.m. on March 31, 2013, 20-year-old Raelene Martinez was driving with three others in Pomona, California. Martinez lost control of the vehicle and crashed into several parked cars. One passenger was killed. Martinez was arrested on suspicion of DUI causing death and manslaughter.
If Martinez was served alcohol at a friend's house, could the family of the deceased passenger sue the host who served alcohol to the driver?
California social host liability law
California Civil Code Section 1714 provides that a social host who serves alcohol to any adult person is not legally responsible for damages suffered by that person or for any injury to the person or property of any third person resulting from the alcohol served by the host.
However, a parent, guardian or any adult who knowingly serves alcohol at his or her home to a person under 21 years or of age may be legally responsible for any injuries or death resulting from the consumption of alcohol by the minor.
In addition, a host who provides alcoholic beverages to an inebriated person or a minor who has a blood alcohol content level of .05 percent or more and drives a car may be found criminally liable for serving alcohol.
Take steps to avoid liability
The following measures should be taken to avoid legal liability for serving alcohol to an already intoxicated person or to minors:
Appoint a sober adult to monitor the bar
Refuse to serve alcohol to minors
Persuade guests to drink properly or utilize designated drivers
Provide alternative transportation to guests who are too drunk to drive
Confiscate keys from intoxicated guests and arrange for them to sleep over
These simple steps can significantly reduce a host’s liability.