May server of alcohol at a fee-generating event be liable for the vehicular tort committed by an obviously intoxicated paying minor?
Social hosts furnishing alcohol generally enjoy immunity from liability as not being the proximate cause for injuries caused by an intoxicated guest. (Civil Code section 1714 (b).) However, this immunity is not available for a server falling within Business and Professions Code section 25601.2, which provides that a person not required to have a liquor license may be held liable if a sale of alcohol to an obviously intoxicated minor occurs.
The critical question for the California Supreme Court in Ennabe v. Manosa (filed 2/24/14) S189577 was whether the circumstances there constituted a sale within the meaning of section 25601.2. Manosa hosted a party at her parent's vacant rental residence, paying for a disc jockey to play music, and providing $60 worth of alcoholic beverages, as well as cups and cranberry juice. Two of Manosa's friends paid for a portion of the initial purchase of alcohol. A number of guests were invited to the party free of charge. She asked a friend to act as a "bouncer" at the side gate entry to the party, instructing him to charge uninvited guests $3 to $5. Thomas Garcia was among those who paid an entrance fee. Once $50 to $60 had been collected, those funds were use to purchase additional alcohol. Garcia, a minor, as were most of the people at the party, had 4 shots of whiskey before arriving at the party and continued to consume the provided alcohol once there. Ennabe, a late-arriving invited guest, escorted the unruly Garcia to Garcia's car. The intoxicated Garcia ran over Ennabe, killing him.
In the wrongful death action brought by Ennabe's heirs, Manosa was granted summary judgment in the trial court on the defense of civil immunity; the Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed based on the liability provision of section 25601.2.