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California Supreme Court considers liability for hosts of cover-charge drinking parties

Posted Feb 18, 2014 1:06 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The California Supreme Court is considering whether hosts of cover-charge drinking parties are sellers of alcohol who aren’t entitled to immunity for serving alcohol to drunken guests.

The court is considering the issue in the case of Jessica Manosa, who was 20 years old when she hosted a party at her parents’ rental home and charged $3 to $5 to strangers who showed up, the Los Angeles Times (sub. req.) reports. One guest was asked to leave after dropping his pants. He got in his car, and struck and killed one of the party guests who had escorted him out the door. The driver later pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

California law gives immunity to social hosts who serve alcohol to intoxicated guests, but not in the case of individuals who sell alcohol.

Lower courts had ruled the cover charge was intended only to defray the cost of alcohol, rather than to turn a profit, and Manosa wasn’t liable.

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