Friday, December 3, 2010
Party Host Held Not Responsible for Drunk Driving by Guest
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
A young woman who charged admission to a house party where alcohol was freely available is not liable for the death of a partygoer struck by a vehicle driven by an intoxicated minor guest, this district’s Court of Appeal has ruled.
Div. One held Wednesday that Jessica Manosa was immune from suit over the 2007 death of 19-year-old Andrew Ennabe because she did not “sell” alcohol to minor guests when she charged an admission fee to defray the cost of providing alcoholic beverages.
Ennabe, 19, was struck after escorting the driver—Thomas Garcia, who had been asked to leave for allegedly harassing guests—off of the premises. Ennabe died a week later and Garcia, then 20, was convicted of a felony and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
California law provides broad immunity from civil liability for a social host who “furnishes alcoholic beverages to any person.” However, Ennabe’s parents sued Manosa, who was 20 at the time of the party, claiming that immunity was precluded by Business and Professions Code Sec. 25602.1 because she charged a $3 to $5 entrance fee to the party at a vacant rental residence owned by her parents, and used some of the $50 to $60 collected to buy additional alcoholic beverages during the course of the party.
Sec. 25602.1 allows suits by or on behalf of anyone who suffers injury or death against any person licensed to sell alcohol or required to be licensed who sells, gives or furnishes alcohol to an obviously intoxicated minor where that action is the proximate cause of the injury or death. It also prevents immunity for “any other person who sells, or causes to be sold, any alcoholic beverage” to an intoxicated minor where the sale proximately causes injury or death.
Ennabe’s parents argued that civil liability was appropriate under both tests, but Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert A. Dukes ruled that the exception did not apply and granted Manosa summary judgment.
The Court of Appeal affirmed in an opinion by Presiding Justice Robert M. Mallano, who said that Manosa was not liable under the “any other person who sells” clause because it requires a transfer of title to an alcoholic beverage from one person to another.
“[I]t is difficult, if not impossible, to determine which individual or individuals held title to the alcoholic beverages consumed by Garcia because not only Manosa, but two of her friends as well, contributed the money to obtain the initial alcoholic beverages. Other guests paying an entrance fee, including Garcia himself, contributed the money used to obtain additional alcoholic beverages during the party.
“Hence, Manosa and all of her paying guests may be said to have provided alcoholic beverages to each other, making Manosa and all of the guests both sellers and purchasers.”
Mallano also wrote that Manosa was not “required to be licensed” because there was no actual sale; the residence where the party was held was not open to the general public, but only to those to whom the party was publicized; and the residence was not maintained for the purpose of keeping, serving, consuming, or disposing of alcoholic beverages.
Justices Victoria Gerrard Chaney and Jeffrey W. Johnson joined Mallano in his opinion.
Ennabe’s parents were represented by Abdalla J. Innabi and Amer Innabi of the Innabi Law Group in Pasadena, who could not be reached for comment.
Richard H. Nakamura Jr. of Morris, Polich & Purdy in Los Angeles, joined by Dean A. Olson and Sheena Y. Kwon, represented Manosa. Nakamura declined comment.
The case is Ennabe v. Manosa, 10 S.O.S. 6696.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company