The California Supreme Court is set to decide a case which may expand the liability of California homeowners for social gatherings where alcohol is served and people sustain injuries or are killed. The case was filed on behalf of a party-goer who was killed at a social event hosted by the homeowner’s teenage children and has been litigated and appealed from the trial court level all the way to the Cal. Sup. Ct. (See Los Angeles Times story here).
Legal Background of Social Host Liability and Immunity Laws in California
Prior to the early to mid 1970’s, California case law had several opinions which held party hosts liable for serving alcohol if this resulted in injury or death to any of the attendees to the party. (E.g. Coulter v. Superior Court, 21 Cal.3d 144 – California Supreme Court held that a non-commercial supplier of alcohol [apartment complex owner and manager] could be held liable for injuries caused by drunken participants to third parties harmed by the intoxicated person). The California Legislature decided that it wanted to limit such legal exposure for social hosts and amended California Civil Code 1714 to read as follows: