Thursday, June 19, 2014
C.A. Rejects Lawsuit Over Alcohol-Related Death of Teenager That Led to Passage of ‘Shelby’s Law’
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The parents of a teenage girl who died from acute alcohol poisoning on an overnight visit to a friend’s house cannot hold the friend’s parents liable for their daughter’s death, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Shelby Allen who’s death sparked the passage of “Shelby’s Law” is shown in this family photo.
The court affirmed a summary judgment ruling rejecting an action by Shelby Allen’s parents against their daughter’s friend Kayli Liberman and Kayli’s parents Wallace and Debby Liberman. The case led to the passage of “Shelby’s Law,” a 2010 enactment that creates an exception to California’s rule of immunity for social hosts who serve alcohol to persons who suffer injury, or cause injury to others, as a result of consuming the alcohol.
Under Shelby’s Law, the social host immunity statute will not protect an adult for damages to, or caused by, someone whom the host knows, or reasonably should know, is below the legal drinking age of 21.
Shelby Allen was 17 years old when she was found dead in the bathroom of the Liberman home near Redding. Her alcohol content was 0.339 at the time of her death.
According to testimony, Kayli Liberman—then 16—propped up her friend’s head against a toilet and closed the bathroom door behind her, after Shelby consumed 15 shots of vodka. The vodka had been taken from the Libermans’ bar after they went to bed.
Steve Allen said he was told the next morning what had happened. He did not look in on Shelby, he said, because he had been told she was okay and he did not want to invade the space of a teenage female behind a closed bathroom door.
Shasta Superior Court Judge Monica Marlow granted summary judgment, finding no duty on the part of the Libermans’ to make further inquiry as to Shelby’s condition.
Justice Mauro, writing for the Court of Appeal, agreed.
“Applying the law in effect at the time of Shelby’s death, although the Libermans could have done more to protect, supervise or aid Shelby, they are not liable for furnishing alcohol, making alcohol accessible, or failing to supervise Shelby. Kayli’s parents had a special relationship with Shelby because she was an invited guest in their home, but that special relationship, by itself, does not negate the specific statutory social host immunity applicable to these facts. As for Kayli, the Allens do not cite authority imposing a special relationship on a minor who invites another minor to stay the night.”
The case is Allen v. Liberman, 14 S.O.S. 3035.
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