By: Katie Johnson, Shareholder, Sutton | Booker | P.C.
The Colorado Supreme Court recently issued an opinion examining social host liability under Colorado’s Dram Shop statute in Przekurat v. Torres, 17SC15, 2018 CO 69 (Sept. 10, 2018). The Court held that a social host who provides a place to drink alcohol must have actual knowledge that a specific guest is underage to be held liable for any damage or injury caused by that underage guest.
In Przekurat, the defendants threw a party at the house they were renting. They invited people, and information about the party was posted on social media. A large number of guests attended the party, some who had been specifically invited and others who heard about it from others. Alcohol was provided at the party, and some guests brought their own. An underage guest whom the defendants did not know attended the party. Later that evening, the underage guest and plaintiff left the party together, with the guest driving the plaintiff’s vehicle. He lost control of the vehicle, which went off the road and rolled several times. Plaintiff was thrown from the vehicle and suffered severe injuries.
Plaintiff sued the defendants under the Dram Shop Statute. His claim was dismissed on summary judgment by the trial court, and affirmed on appeal. The Supreme Court accepted certiorari to review “whether the court of appeals negated the duty imposed by C.R.S. § 12-47-801(4)(a)(I) upon social hosts not to provide ‘a place’ for underage drinking where the hosts threw a party and opened the venue to anyone of any age by requiring ‘actual knowledge’ of a specific guest’s age.”
The Court analyzed the Dram Shop Statute’s provisions regarding liability of social hosts:
No social host who furnishes any alcohol beverage is civilly liable to any injured individual or his or her estate for any injury to such individual or damage to any property suffered . . . because of the intoxication of any person due to the consumption of such alcohol beverages, except when:
(I) It is proven that the social host . . . knowingly provided the person under the age of twenty-one a place to consume an alcoholic beverage . . . .
C.R.S. § 12-47-801(4)(a).
Plaintiff advanced two arguments. First, that the statute required knowledge only of “providing a place” where an underage person consumed alcohol, not knowledge that the person was underage. The Court rejected this argument, holding that the knowledge requirement applies to both knowingly providing a place for consumption of alcohol, and knowing that the specific guest is underage.
Second, Plaintiff argued that constructive knowledge is sufficient to impose liability, and that a social guest who should have known a person to be underage when providing a place to drink alcohol can be held liable under the statute. The Court also rejected this argument, noting that the plain and ordinary meaning of “knowingly” means actual knowledge, not constructive knowledge.