OVER $500,000 SETTLEMENT FOR FURNISHING ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES TO AN UNDERAGE DRUNK DRIVER
A 21 year old man furnished wine and vodka to his underage girlfriend who then drove the wrong way on the freeway killing a 51 year old husband and father of two adult children. The alcohol was alleged to have been furnished at the man’s residence where he lived with his parents. California law protects social hosts who furnish alcoholic beverages at their home. The social host can not be held legally accountable for damages suffered by a third person resulting from the consumption of alcoholic beverages. However, a recent addition to this law permitted a legal claim for injuries and death against an adult who knowingly furnished alcoholic beverages at his or her residence to a person known to be under 21 years of age. The 21 year old purchased 2 bottles of wine and a bottle of vodka and furnished it to his 20 year old girlfriend over a 9 hour period of time. She then drove the wrong way on Highway 24 near Lafayette, California and collided head on with a car being driven by a 51 year old man on his way to work at 1:20 a.m. She told the California Highway Patrol Officer and the Alcoholic Beverage Control investigator that she had been furnished alcohol at her boyfriend’s residence. The boyfriend denied serving alcohol at his parent’s home claiming they only drank one bottle of wine and that she was not drunk when she left. The girl testified at her deposition she could not remember where she drank the alcoholic beverages. The 21 year old and his parents testified that the girl had not visited their residence that day and that no alcoholic beverages had been served at their residence. The place where the drinking took place became the primary issue in the case. We were able to show that the 21 year old man had repeatedly changed his story about where, when and how much drinking took place. Although there was inconclusive proof of where the drinking took place, we were able to convince the parent’s insurance company to pay a settlement of $500,000. The drunk driver only had a minimum policy of $15,000. The widow had been married to her husband for 26 years and they had 2 adult children who lived with them. The decedent worked at two jobs to support his family. They were a very close family and his death was a terrible tragedy.