Asking For a Cover Charge at California House Party Creates Liability

An underage drinker consumed alcohol at a house party. While leaving the party he struck 19-year-old Andrew Ennabe (picture) who died one week later.

A wrongful death lawsuit was brought by Ennabe’s parents against then 20 year old Jessica Manosa. She held the party at an unoccupied rental home owned by her parents. Manosa provided alcohol at the party. Her parents were not aware of the party. During the party and to help defray the costs of alcohol, Manosa charged uninvited guests $3 to $5 to enter the party.

The underage drinker who caused Ennabe’s death, Thomas Garcia, then 20, arrived uninvited to the party and was already intoxicated. He was charged and paid admission.

Yesterday in a unanimous ruling, the California Supreme Court ruled that party hosts who ask guests to pay a cover charge to defray costs may be held legally responsible if an underage drinker becomes intoxicated and hurts himself or others. The court held that a cover charge amounts to a sale of alcohol, and state law creates liability for those who sell alcohol to obviously intoxicated minors.

The court described Manosa’s party as “a pop-up nightclub that required a cover charge for entry.” Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar wrote for the court and held, “A social host can retain her immunity by simply refraining from charging any of her invited guests.”

Please contact us if you have questions about this new California law.

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