Nichols v. Progressive N. Ins. Co.

746 N.W.2d 220

 

RULE:

Based on public policy grounds, a claim for common-law negligence cannot be maintained against social hosts who allegedly were aware that minors on their property were consuming alcohol, but who did not provide the alcohol, when an underage guest later allegedly caused an alcohol-related car accident.

FACTS:

Plaintiffs' vehicle was struck by a vehicle driven by a high school student who had been drinking alcohol at defendants' house. Defendants did not serve alcohol at their party, but there were some people who snuck it into the party. Plaintiffs claimed that the defendants violated their duty by failing to prevent the alcohol consumption. The district court dismissed the suit, and the appellate court reversed. Defendant appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

ISSUE:

Whether the defendants owed or violated a duty owed to the plaintiff?

ANSWER:

No, defendants did not owe or violate a duty owed to the plaintiff.

CONCLUSION:

On appeal, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that, based on public policy grounds, a claim for common-law negligence could not be maintained against social hosts, such as defendants, who allegedly were aware that minors on their property were consuming alcohol, but who did not provide the alcohol, when an underage guest later allegedly caused an alcohol-related car accident. The court held that allowing recovery in this case would have no sensible or just stopping point in violation of public policy, and that imposing liability here would be only a short step away from imposing strict liability upon property owners for any underage drinking that occurred on property under their control. There was no allegation that defendants provided alcohol to the student, that they were aware that the student was drinking alcohol, that defendants knew or should have known that the student was intoxicated, or that they knew or should have known that the student was not able to drive her car safely at the time of the accident.

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