Category: Car Accident

Last year, a 17-year-old teen was killed in a car accident when drove his car into a concrete post near the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The boy was reportedly on his way home from a house party and under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. His parents are now seeking damages from a man who they claim is responsible for their son’s death. Specifically, they claim that the man provided alcohol to their underage (and minor) son. He then did nothing to prevent the teen from getting behind the wheel of a car. The lawsuit argues that the man’s negligence lead to the wrongful death of their son.

Negligence and Wrongful Death Claims in California

When a person is killed in an accident because of another person’s negligence the family can file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover financial compensation. A wrongful death lawsuit is based on the argument that:

  1. The defendant had a duty to act responsibly and with caution;
  2. The defendant breached this duty; and
  3. The plaintiff died because of this breach.

This case is slightly different. This is because the case rests on the argument that the man is responsible for the teen’s death because he provided alcohol for him to consume. Generally, in California, you cannot hold another person responsible for your actions simply because they provided you with alcohol.

Dram Shop Liability

Many states have what is known as “dram shop liability.” This allows victims of drunk driving accidents to hold a third party responsible for providing alcohol to another person.  For example, let’s say you were injured in a car accident by a drunk driver. If you lived in a state that imposed dram shop liability, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the bar/restaurant/liquor store/person that provided the alcohol to the drunk driver.

California, however, has very strict dram shop liability laws. In most cases, victims of accidents caused by an intoxicated person cannot hold the third party who provided the alcohol in that situation responsible for damages. California has stated that it is of the opinion that the act of providing alcohol to another person is not a proximate cause of injuries that may result from intoxication. Instead, California believes that the consumption of alcohol is the proximate cause of any injuries that may result from intoxication. So, California believes that the bartender who provides the alcohol is not the cause of any injuries caused by that alcohol. Rather, it is the act of the person drink the alcohol that is the cause of any injuries caused by that alcohol. (E.g., A bartender who serves alcohol to a guest is not responsible for injuries that the guest may later cause because they were drunk. The guest is solely responsible for their actions.)

Exceptions to California’s Narrow Dram Shop Liability Laws

There is, however, an exception to this “you are responsible for your own actions” rule. Under California Civil Code Section 1714(d), a social host who provides alcohol to a person under the age of 21 at his or her home can be held responsible for any injuries that may result from that person’s intoxication. The parents of the 17-year-old boy who was killed in Pasadena are likely using this argument as the basis for their wrongful death lawsuit.

There, the 17-year-old was attended a house party at the defendant’s home. The defendant, knowing the boy was not 21 years old, provided him with alcohol. The parents argue that the fact that the boy was only 17 at the time is even further proof that the defendant should be held responsible. The lawsuit states that, because of his age, he was unable to use the care and judgment “which it is reasonable to expect of a normal sober adult” who drives a car. The defendant provided alcohol to a minor and then let him get behind the wheel of a car. Now that boy is dead and his parents are suffering serious emotional distress from the loss of their child.

Pasadena Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving accident you may be entitled to compensation. An experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney can help you determine if you have grounds for a personal injury claim. A lawsuit can help to compensate for bodily injuries, medical costs, damage to your vehicle or other property, and emotional distress resulting from the accident. Contact our Pasadena office today to schedule your free consultation.