Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Social Host Liability Case Out of Erie County

In the Erie County trial court case of Boyd v. Miller, 11321 - Civil - 2011 (C.P. Erie. Co. Oct. 28, 2011 Connelly, J.), the court addressed preliminary objections to a Complaint filed against a social host who provided marijuana to a guest, both of whom were under age 21.

The guest thereafter allegedly caused an accident while driving impaired resulting in alleged injuries to the plaintiff.

In response to the preliminary objections filed by the homeowner social host defendants the Court found that the plaintiff had stated a negligence cause of action based upon a violation of the Controlled Substance Act and also the Restatement (Second) Torts Section 876 (acting in concert).

In so ruling, the court rejected the Defendant host's argument that this case should be treated like an underage drinking case, and since both host and driver were underage, there should not be liability on the host under the current status of Pennsylvania law on that issue (which holds that there is no liability for a social host who provides alcohol to a guest who later gets into an accident--cases cited in the Opinion).

 Court disagreed finding that the cases cited were limited to the provision of alcohol given how the Pennsylvania Legislature has elected to treat drug offenses differently from alcohol offenses, i.e. as being "more egregious" offenses.

As such, the Court dismissed the claims asserting liability based upon the furnishing of alcohol to the guest, but overruled the preliminary objections to the allegations pertaining to the provision of controlled substances to the guest.

Anyone desiring a copy of this decision in Boyd v. Miller may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

I thank Attorney Paul Oven of the Moosic, PA office of Dougherty, Leventhal & Price for bringing this case to my attention.

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