Social Host Act Does Not Apply to Gross Negligence Claims.
Carolyn Bogart was successful in opposing a plaintiff’s appeal against our client, a former fraternity member and social guest. In 2014, the plaintiff was a 20-year-old college student and fraternity member attending a university in New Jersey. After consuming his own alcohol, he fell asleep in a dorm room that was the location of an on-campus party. In the early morning hours, he left the dorm room and proceeded to drive his vehicle, which was unknown to anyone in attendance, as all of the party attendees had either left the party or were asleep when he left. He injured himself in a one-car accident, resulting in a traumatic brain injury and disfigurement claim. In 2016, he filed a lawsuit naming all party attendees and fellow brothers in his fraternity, as well as the university and its employees. Following over 30 depositions, summary judgment was granted to all defendants. The appeal was filed in 2019, and a reported decision issued on March 25, 2021, affirming the underlying Superior Court decision as to our client. The appeal raised questions concerning the scope of the duty owed to an adult not old enough to drink legally, but who nonetheless drank to excess. The appellate panel ruled that the Social Host Liability Act did not apply because it governs liability for third party injuries resulting from the service of alcohol to an of-age adult.