Liability for Serving Drinks to Teens

Hosts who charge admission to a party where alcohol is given to minors may be held financially liable if one of those drunken teenagers causes the injury or death of another, the California Supreme Court held Monday.

Although the Legislature created immunity from civil liability for those who sell or furnish alcohol to someone who causes an injury to another while drunk, the lawmakers did carve out an exception — serving to teenagers.

The legislature has “established some narrow exceptions to this broad civil immunity,” wrote Justice Kathryn Werdegar.  In particular, for anyone who sells or furnishes alcohol to minors may still be held to account.

At issue was whether Jessica Manosa, and by extension her parents, can be liable for serving drinks during a party to which she charged admission to an underage drunken guest.  The teenager later left drunk and killed someone in an auto accident.

The court unanimously held that Manosa could potentially be liable under state law for selling alcohol to an obviously intoxicated minor.  The court reinstated the civil suit by parents of Andrew Ennabe and ordered the case back to Los AngelesCounty for a civil trial.

Manosa hosted a party at a vacant rental house owned by her parents in 2007 that was publicized by text and word of mouth with 40 to 60 people showing up.  Manosa paid $60 for rum, requila and beer and provided cups and cranberry juice but nothing else, according to the court.

Guests were charged $3 to $5 per person to enter to cover the disc jockey Manosa hired and the alcohol.

Thomas Garcia paid $20 for himself and several friends to join the party.  Ennabe also attended the party.  Both Ennabe and Garcia were under 21 and visibly drunk when they arrived, the opinion states.

Garcia was eventually asked to leave after obscene and threatening comments to women at the party.

Ennabe and other guests escorted Garcia and his friends to their car.  One of Garcia’s friends spit on Ennabe, prompting Ennabe to chase him into the street where he was hit by Garcia who was driving away.  Ennabe later died of his injuries.

Garcia was convicted of a felony and sentenced to 14 years in prison, the opinion states.

The only question is whether the party host, because she charged admission, could be held liable civilly for selling or furnishing alcohol to a minor.

“Liability may attach because plaintiff alleges facts suggesting that defendant Manosa was a ‘person who sold, or caused to be sold, any alcoholic beverage, to any obviously intoxicated minor.”  Because the facts as portrayed by Ennabe’s parents “support the conclusion Manosa is a person who sold alcoholic beverages to Garcia… and Garcia’s intoxication was the proximate cause of Andrew Ennabe’s death, she is potentially liable,” Werdegar said.

Case:  Ennabe v. Manosa, No. S189577


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