Social Host Liability

Social Host Liability and Common Law “Dram Shop” negligence– a person who serves alcohol to an “obviously intoxicated” person when it is reasonable to expect that person will soon thereafter operate a motor vehicle. (standard 3 year SoL includes social hosts)

  • Social Host Liability – The court held that the injured party had not stated a claim of negligence per se for the violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 18B-302 because § 18B-302 was not a public safety statute adopted for the protection of the driving public. The injured party had stated a negligence claim under common law principles because the party hosts were under a duty to the people who travel on the public highways not to serve alcohol to an intoxicated individual who was known to have been driving and the injured party alleged that the party hosts had served an alcoholic beverage to a person they knew or should have known was under the influence of alcohol and that they knew that the person would shortly thereafter drive an automobile. Hart v. Ivey, 332 N.C. 299 (N.C. 1992)
  • Witnesses – reporter drank at newspaper party killed another driver. It was an unusual case in that fifty people testified that the defendant didn’t appear intoxicated. So, the court held that the third element “should have known intoxicated” wasn’t met. The problem was the defendant’s BAC was .191. Camalier v. Jeffries, 340 N.C. 699 (N.C. 1995)
  • Appearance – The defendant was intoxicated, he did not readily appear so. His BAC was 0.13. Witnesses did not notice anything unusual about his eyes or speech to indicate that he had been drinking, adding that it was usually difficult to tell if he had been drinking alcohol. Several other witnesses stated his speech was normal that evening, that he was walking straight and had control over his body motions, and that he did not smell of alcohol. One witness stated, “If you didn’t know him, he would be sober to you.”
    Estate of Mullis by Dixon v. Monroe Oil Co., 349 N.C. 196, 199-204 (N.C. 1998)
  • Going to drive – A person went into Winn-Dixie and purchased alcoholic beverages. This evidence is sufficient to show that Winn-Dixie knew or should have known that the person was going to drive a motor vehicle, as a reasonable person could find that someone who travels to and from a grocery store does so by driving a motor vehicle.
    Smith v. Winn-Dixie Charlotte, Inc., 142 N.C. App. 255, 262 (N.C. Ct. App. 2001). In footnote 6, the court commented on the concurring opinion, “The concurring opinion would apparently impose a standard that required some additional evidence the party making the purchase was going to drive a motor vehicle after he left the grocery store. Under such a standard, a commercial vendor would not be on notice a purchaser was going to drive a motor vehicle unless the commercial vendor saw the purchaser drive into the commercial establishment in a motor vehicle. Thus, in our opinion, this standard imposes an unreasonable burden on a plaintiff. We emphasize the standard we impose does not create a per se rule of liability; rather, we hold the evidence is merely sufficient to create a question of fact for the jury and to, therefore, withstand a motion for summary judgment or directed verdict. The jury, upon hearing all of the evidence, is free to reject a finding that the commercial vendor knew or should have known the purchaser was going to drive a motor vehicle”.
  • Litigation– witness statements immediately from the police report, anyone else in our car, try and contact the bar. Get the medical records of the defendant and hire a toxicologist to testify as to the BAC and effects. However, don’t ignore the visible signs of intoxication.