South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Social Host Liable for Injury Caused by Underage Drinker's Assault
Description Appeals court affirmed a jury verdict on behalf of a guest at a party who was hit with a hammer by an underage guest who had been served alcohol by the host. The host was liable based on proximate cause, which the jury found to exist, as serving alcohol to a minor could result in violent behavior.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligence; Alcohol; Social Host; Proximate Cause
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Nichols was at a party hosted by Maldonado. Another guest at the party, Dobler, who was under 21 years of age, was served alcohol and, while drunk, hit Nichols with a hammer. Nichols sued Maldonado for negligence in serving alcohol to a minor, contending that under Michigan law, violent behavior is a foreseeable consequence of underage consumption of alcohol. The jury awarded Nichols $577,267. Maldonado appealed, contending that there was no proximate cause.
Decision

Affirmed. Serving alcohol to an underage person in violation of Michigan law creates a rebuttable presumption of negligence, but the plaintiff must still show that the furnishing of alcohol proximately caused plaintiff's injury. Whether proximate cause applies was for the jury to determine, which it did.

Citation Nichols v. Dobler, 2002 WL 31215997 (---N.W.2d ---, Ct. App., Mich., 2002)

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