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Reynolds v. Hicks

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Reynolds (Plaintiff) sued the Hickses (Defendants) for serving alcohol to their minor nephew who then injured Plaintiff in an automobile accident.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A third party who is injured by an intoxicated minor may not sue the social hosts who provided the alcohol to the minor under the statute making such provision of alcohol to minors illegal.

    Facts.

    The Defendants held a wedding party at which alcohol was served. Their under-age nephew drank alcohol at the party and then got into an automobile accident, injuring Plaintiff. Plaintiff sued Defendants, alleging negligence for serving alcohol to a minor. Defendants moved for summary judgment and the trial court granted it, finding that Washington law did not create social host liability for serving alcohol to a minor to third parties injured by the intoxicated minor. Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue.

    May a third party injured by an intoxicated minor sue the social hosts who provided the alcohol under the statute making such provision of alcohol to minors illegal?

    Held.

    (Madsen, J.) No. A third party who is injured by an intoxicated minor may not sue the social hosts who provided the alcohol to the minor under the statute making such provision of alcohol to minors illegal. Only the minor who was injured as a result of the violation of the statute may sue the hosts for providing him alcohol. Adults do not have a cause of action against a social host. Social hosts are not equipped to monitor the alcohol consumption of their guests. A commercial vendor would be subject to suit under similar circumstances, however.

    Dissent.

    (Johnson, J.) The majority’s distinction between social hosts and commercial vendors is insupportable. Both commit a criminal act by serving alcohol to a minor.

    Concurrence.

    (Madsen, J.) No. A third party who is injured by an intoxicated minor may not sue the social hosts who provided the alcohol to the minor under the statute making such provision of alcohol to minors illegal. Only the minor who was injured as a result of the violation of the statute may sue the hosts for providing him alcohol. Adults do not have a cause of action against a social host. Social hosts are not equipped to monitor the alcohol consumption of their guests. A commercial vendor would be subject to suit under similar circumstances, however.

    Discussion.

    Commercial vendors have proprietary and financial motives for serving alcohol and are therefore held to a higher standard of supervision. The general prohibition against serving alcohol to minors does not apply to parents.



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