California law provides broad immunity from civil liability for a social host who “furnishes alcoholic beverages to any person,” as many Californians do at their house parties. (Civil Code § 1714 (c).) However, a social host loses that immunity if he or she “sells, or causes to be sold, any alcoholic beverage, to any obviously intoxicated minor.” (Business and Professions Code § 25602.1.)

This is exactly what happened at a recent house party where alcohol was available and the host charged a $3 to $5 admission fee.  Tragically, one of the underage attendees left the party intoxicated, driving his car into and killing another partygoer. A lawsuit was filed attempting to hold the social host liable under Business and Professions Code section 25602.1. The social host filed a motion for summary judgment that was granted by the trial court which found that the host was not civilly liable for damages for admitting to the party an obviously intoxicated minor, nor is such a host “required to be licensed” within the meaning of Business and Professions Code section 25602.1. The trial court’s ruling was affirmed by the California Court of Appeal, Second District in December 2010. (Ennabe v. Manosa, Dec. 1, 2010, Case No. B222784 (DOC) (PDF).)

This opinion seems to shed light on the deference of courts to the immunity from liability for social hosts, which this Court reiterated provides “sweeping civil immunity.” When the party is over, social hosts should sleep soundly without the nagging worries of irresponsible actions by their partygoers.

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