Friday, July 11, 2003
Business That Hosted ‘Rave’ Party Held Not Liable For Accident Caused by Attendee on Way Home
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
The host of an all-night “rave” cannot be held liable for the actions of a driver who may have caused an accident after taking drugs at the party, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled yesterday.
Div. Two affirmed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter J. Meeka’s grant of summary judgment in favor of AMF Bowling Centers, Inc., owner of the World on Wheels skating rink on Venice Blvd.
“We hold that the trial court properly granted AMF summary judgment because (1) all night rave parties are not inherently dangerous, and (2) AMF did not have a duty not to allow its facility to be used for such a party, even if it knew or could assume that drugs would be used by some of the attendees,” Justice Judith Ashmann-Gerst wrote for the Court of Appeal.
The suit was brought on behalf of two injured teenagers, Shion Sakiyama and Julie Kuo, and the parents of their deceased friends, Lynne Chen and Suel Lee. The four were passengers in a car driven by Chen, which struck a tree over an hour after they left the March 1999 rave.
The plaintiffs claimed that Kuo purchased ecstasy at the party and shared it with Lee and Sakiyama, although it was not known whether Chen took any. AMF presented evidence that the company and its security personnel were on the lookout for drugs, searched attendees both outside and inside the rink, and confiscated items—such as surgical masks, balloons, and Vick’s vapor rub bottles—associated with drug use.
AMF also presented evidence that its employees confiscated drugs and paraphernalia during the party and identified and ejected drug dealers.
Ashmann-Gerst, writing for the Court of Appeal, acknowledged that it was foreseeable that a teenager attending a rave party might use drugs, and might later have an accident as a result of drug use and/or fatigue. But “foreseeability is not coterminous with duty,” the justice wrote.
AMF’s role, the justice said, is similar to that of a social host, who has no duty to prevent a guest from driving home drunk. The connection between the accident and the defendant’s hosting of the party, she wrote, was not close enough to support liability.
“While the sale and consumption of drugs may have occurred at the party, there is no evidence that AMF encouraged or participated in drug use or required the attendees to stay at the party. In fact, the evidence demonstrates just the opposite — AMF took numerous steps to prevent drug use at its facility. Contrariwise, there is a close connection between Chen’s decision to drive, the others’ decision to go in her car, and the regrettable accident....Under these circumstances, we are left with only one reasonable conclusion: appellants’ injuries were not closely connected to the rave party.”
AMF’s decision to rent its facility for the rave, the justice went on to say, was not morally blameworthy. The company did not encourage anyone to drive while impaired, and did not act recklessly, Ashmann-Gerst wrote.
Presiding Justice Roger Boren and Justice Kathryn Doi Todd concurred in the opinion.
Pasadena attorney Richard Reyes, who represented Chen’s parents, said he had not yet read the decision but would talk to his clients about seeking Supreme Court review. Brian D. Witzer of West Hollywood, who represented the other plaintiffs, did not return a MetNews phone call.
AMF’s lawyer, Tod M. Castronovo of Shaver, Korff & Castronovo, an Encino firm, said the ruling was “a reminder of how you analyze landowner or business owner liability.” The court made clear that there is “more to it than” showing foreseeability, he said.
“To me the key was that we did not supply...drugs and we took reasonable steps to try and prevent their use,” he commented.
The case is Sakiyama v. AMF Bowling Centers, Inc., B151800.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company