Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Court of Appeal:
Judgment of Dismissal Affirmed in Case Where Son Allegedly Bought Drug Which He Supplied His Girlfriend, Who Died From Overdose
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A father who financially supports his adult son cannot be held liable for the death of the son’s girlfriend from an overdose on methamphetamine on the theory that the son purchased the drug out of his allowance, Div. One of the Fourth District Court of Appeal held yesterday.
The opinion by Presiding Justice Judith McConnell affirms a judgment of dismissal which followed San Diego Superior Court Judge Eddie C. Sturgeon’s sustaining of a demurrer without leave to amend an action brought against San Diego pediatrician Shawn J. Bissonnette. He was sued by Kyler Easton Gore, the minor son of Ariel Campbell, who died on this date in 2018, at age 27, from methamphetamine intoxication.
Gore sought to affix liability on Bissonnette based on supplying money to his son, then 24, though he knew him to be a drug addict who supplied drugs to Campbell.
Bissonnette demurred on the ground that he had no duty to Campbell. Sturgeon said in his ruling:
“The court is unwilling to expand the definition of a special relationship between Shawn Bissonnette and his adult son: Cody Bissonnette, under the facts alleged. Although plaintiff has alleged Cody was financially dependent on his father that is not the same as a being a dependent.”
Agreeing, McConnell said that for liability to exist based on a special relationship with the tortfeasor, there must be an ability to control that person. She wrote:
“Although Father provided his son an apartment, money in a bank account, and a car to drive, none of the alleged facts demonstrate Father had an ability to control C.B.’s conduct. C.B. did not live with Father. C.B. made his own choices about how to spend the money his father provided. As the trial court noted, C.B. continued to use drugs even though Father had provided C.B. with multiple opportunities for drug treatment.”
A foreseeability of harm to Campbell was also absent, the presiding justice said, setting forth:
“Father provided financial support for his adult son. The essence of plaintiff’s claim is that it was foreseeable money Father provided to C.B. could be used to purchase drugs and either A.C. or C.B. would die as a result of their drug use. But the connection between A.C.’s overdose and Father’s conduct in trying to help his son financially is tenuous. Even if Father had cut off his son from all financial support, including housing and transportation, it is not evident lack of such resources would have prevented either C.B. or A.C. from acquiring or using drugs.
“Public policy does not support imposing liability on a parent for providing financial support for an adult child.”
The case is K.G. v. S.B., 2020 S.O.S. 1202.
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