When reviewing a summary judgment order, an appellate court engages in the same inquiry as the trial court. Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Wash. Super. Ct. Civ. R. 56(c). The motion will be granted, after considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, only if reasonable persons could reach but one conclusion.
Plaintiff, who was injured by a drunken driver, brought a negligence action against defendant social hosts at whose wedding the underage drinker allegedly became intoxicated. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, stating that Washington law does not extend social host liability to third persons injured by an intoxicated minor. The trial court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment.
Whether summary judgment was appropriate in a suit filed by an injured third person against the social hosts that served alcohol to the intoxicated minor.
The court affirmed the summary judgment in favor of defendant social hosts. Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In this case Wash. Rev. Code § 66.44.270, which made it unlawful to provide liquor to any person under 21 years of age, did not create a duty of care on the part of defendants. The statute was intended to protect minors. As a third party injured by the minor, plaintiff did not fall within the class of people protected by the statute. Washington did not recognize a cause of action in negligence for a third person injured by an intoxicated adult against the social host that served the person while in an obviously intoxicated state. Social hosts were generally unaccustomed to the pressures involved in taking responsibility for the intoxication of their guests, unlike commercial hosts, who had a proprietary interest and profit motive and were expected to exercise greater supervision than in a social setting.