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WPI 370.12 Furnishing Alcohol to Minors—Duty of Social Host

6A WAPRAC WPI 370.12Washington Practice Series TMWashington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil

6A Wash. Prac., Wash. Pattern Jury Instr. Civ. WPI 370.12 (7th ed.)
Washington Practice Series TM
Washington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
April 2022 Update
Washington State Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions
Part XX. Alcohol Liability
Chapter 370. Liability for Furnishing Alcohol
WPI 370.12 Furnishing Alcohol to Minors—Duty of Social Host
A social host owes a duty to exercise reasonable care not to furnish alcohol to a minor. A minor [, for purposes of this instruction,] is a person under the age of twenty-one. [A social host owes this duty only to the minor to whom [it] [he] [she] furnished alcohol.]
Use this instruction for claims that a social host negligently furnished alcohol to a minor. Use bracketed language as applicable. Use WPI 370.13 (Furnishing Alcohol to Minors—Social Host—Burden of Proof) with this instruction.
If contributory negligence of the minor is asserted as a defense, use the appropriate instructions contained in WPI Chapter 11 (Contributory Negligence and Imputed Negligence), WPI Chapter 12 (Specific Factors Affecting Negligence and Contributory Negligence), WPI Chapter 16 (Defenses), and/or WPI Chapter 60 (Statutory Violations).
Under RCW 66.44.270(1), it is a criminal act for any person, including a social host, to furnish liquor to a minor, i.e., a person under the age of twenty-one. The statute does not apply, however, to liquor given by the minor's parent or guardian, liquor given for medicinal purposes by a parent, guardian, physician or dentist, minimal amounts of liquor given in connection with religious services, or liquor provided to a student in accordance with a special permit issued under RCW 66.20.010 (12).
The duty and its source. Based upon RCW 66.44.270(1), the Washington Supreme Court has held that “social hosts owe a duty to exercise ordinary care not to furnish liquor to a minor.” Hansen v. Friend, 118 Wn.2d 476, 485, 824 P.2d 483 (1992). Since the enactment of RCW 5.40.050, breach of this statutory duty is not negligence per se, but may be considered as evidence of negligence. Hansen, 118 Wn.2d at 483. Thus, the trier of fact may find a social host's statutory violation is not negligence, for example, “where the violation is due to some cause beyond the violator's control, and ordinary care could not have guarded against the violation.” Hansen, 118 Wn.2d at 483.
Although RCW 66.44.270(1) also makes it a criminal act for any person to “permit [a minor] to consume liquor on his or her premises or on any premises under his or her control,” Washington courts have declined to extend the social host's common law duty of reasonable care beyond the duty announced in Hansen, i.e., the duty to exercise reasonable care not to furnish alcohol to a minor. Estate of Templeton v. Daffern, 98 Wn.App. 677, 990 P.2d 968 (2000). As the court explained in Templeton:
Although the host owes a common law duty of reasonable care to a minor whom the host has knowingly furnished with alcohol, the social host does not owe a common law duty of reasonable care to a minor whom the host has not furnished with alcohol, even if the host permits the minor to consume, on the host's premises, alcohol that the minor obtained elsewhere.
Estate of Templeton, 98 Wn.App. at 690.
A social host who furnishes alcohol to a minor is not liable to the same extent as a commercial vendor. A landowner who does not know his property is being used for keg parties is not liable to a third person for injuries caused by a drunken attendee. Baynes v. Rustler's Gulch Syndicate, 142 Wn.App. 335, 173 P.3d 1000 (2007). The social host owes a duty of care only to the minor to whom the alcohol was furnished, and not to third persons. See, e.g., Reynolds v. Hicks, 134 Wn.2d 491, 496–502, 951 P.2d 761 (1998); Crowe v. Gaston, 134 Wn.2d 509, 520–22, 951 P.2d 1118 (1998); Mills v. Estate of Schwartz, 44 Wn.App. 578, 584–86, 722 P.2d 1363 (1986).
Public policy. The Washington Supreme Court has found there is good reason not to apply common law liability to social hosts as it is applied to commercial and quasi-commercial hosts. “Social hosts are not as capable of handling the responsibilities of monitoring their guests' alcohol consumption as are their commercial and quasi-commercial counterparts ….” Reynolds, 134 Wn.2d at 497 (quoting Burkhart v. Harrod, 110 Wn.2d 381, 386–387, 755 P.2d 759 (1988)). Further, the Washington Supreme Court has held that RCW 66.44.270(1) was enacted to protect minors from injuries resulting from their own abuse of alcohol, not to protect third parties injured by intoxicated minors. Reynolds, 134 Wn.2d at 498–501; Crowe, 134 Wn.2d at 521.
Limitations of liability. The liability of a social host to a minor to whom the social host has negligently furnished alcohol is not limitless. First, the concept of foreseeability determines the scope of the duty owed. Hansen, 118 Wn.2d at 483; Christen v. Lee, 113 Wn.2d 479, 492, 780 P.2d 1307 (1989). Thus, “the harm sustained must be reasonably perceived as being within the general field of danger covered by the specific duty owed by the defendant.” Hansen, 118 Wn.2d at 484 (quoting Christen, 113 Wn.2d at 492).
Second, because the purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol by a minor is illegal under RCW 66.44.270(2), when the person injured is an intoxicated minor under the age of 21, the violation of the statute may be introduced as evidence of that minor's contributory negligence. Schooley v. Pinch's Deli Market, 134 Wn.2d 468, 481, 483, 951 P.2d 749 (1998); Hansen, 118 Wn.2d at 484.
Third, “if the minor's intoxication results in that person being more than 50 percent at fault for his or her own injuries, then no recovery is allowed.” Schooley, 134 Wn.2d at 481; RCW 5.40.060. RCW 5.40.060 provides a complete defense to an action for damages for personal injury or wrongful death if the person injured or killed was under the influence of intoxicating liquor at the time of the occurrence causing the injury or death and that such condition was a proximate cause of the injury or death and the trier of fact finds such person to be more than fifty percent at fault. Hansen, 118 Wn.2d at 484; see WPI 16.03 (Intoxication of Person Injured or Killed—Defense).
[Current as of February 2021.]
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