Friday, January 30, 2015

Judge Zulick of Monroe County Reaffirms Pennsylvania Social Host Liability

In his recent decision in the case of Cicardo v. Mangual, No. 7668-CV-2010 (C.P. Monroe Co. Jan. 22, 2015 Zulick, J.), Judge Arthur L. Zulick of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas reaffirmed the law in Pennsylvania that one minor (i.e., a person under 21 in this context) cannot be liable as a social host to another minor in a case involving a motor vehicle accident allegedly arising out of a Defendant driver driving under the influence after having left house parties at which alcohol was served.  

According to the Opinion, the Defendant driver was 17 years of age at the time of the accident.  

The court noted that the law concerning social host liability as it relates to minors is settled in Pennsylvania.  

More specifically, while adults have no duty as social host to another adult, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held in Congini by Congini v. Portersville Valve Co., 470 A.2d 515 (Pa. 1983), that an adult social host may be liable for furnishing alcohol to a minor. 

Thereafter, in Kapres v. Heller, 640 A.2d 888 (Pa. Super. 1994), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that a minor cannot be liable as a social host to another minor.  

In the case before Judge Zulick in Cicardo , the minor Defendants who allegedly provided alcohol to the then 17 year old Defendant driver were both 20 years of age at the time of the collision.  

Judge Arthur L. Zulick
Monroe County
Judge Zulick rejected the Plaintiff’s argument that there should be a distinction between minors age 17 and younger, and minors between the ages of 18 and 21.  The Plaintiff argued that, even if there is no social host liability between minors, that rule should apply only to similarly situated individuals and that, in this case, individuals under the age of 18 and individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 were not similarly situated.  

Judge Zulick noted that the holding in Kapres did not distinguish between minors under 18 and minors under 21.   He additionally noted that the statutory language in 18 Pa. C.S.A. §6310.1 (selling or furnishing liquor or malt or brewed beverages to minors) likewise did not differentiate between minors’ ages.  

Rather, Judge Zulick reiterated that the “bright line rule established in Kapres is that ‘one minor does not owe a duty to another minor regarding the furnishing or consumption of alcohol.'”   Quoting Kapres, 612 A.2d at 891.    

As there were no issues of material fact presented in this matter, and given that all of the individuals involved were minors, Judge Zulick the minor Defendant social hosts were not liable under Pennsylvania law for allegedly serving alcohol to the minor Defendant driver on the evening of the subject motor vehicle accident.  
 

Anyone desiring a copy of this Opinion, may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

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