Following the death of a high school basketball player and her boyfriend in a single-car accident shortly after the pair left the home of her coach, who provided alcohol, the girl’s mother sued the school district for liability. However, the State of Washington Supreme Court ruled in this case, the school district could not be held liable.
Although the court noted the actions of the coach were “so extremely indifferent to the risk of injury to (decedents) that someone must be liable for (plaintiff’s) claims.” However, plaintiff, as the representative of her daughter’s estate, did not choose to bring action against the coach. Instead, she brought a number of claims against the school district for direct liability and vicarious liability for the negligence of its employee. Direct negligence claims included negligent hiring and retention, negligent training and negligent supervision. On these and the vicarious liability claims (for which the negligent employee would have needed to be acting in the course and scope of employment), the court held plaintiff failed to present genuine issues of material fact as to the school district’s liability, and thus the district was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.
Before delving further, we should note that Florida’s own dram shop and social liability laws when it comes to drunk driving accidents are rather limited also. F.S. 768.125 holds that a person who sells or furnishes alcohol to someone of lawful drinking age OR who is not known to be habitually addicted to alcohol won’t be liable for damages resulting from that person’s intoxication. (Here, both decedents were minors under 21, so it may have been possible to hold him personally liable for what occurred, but the question is still whether his employer would have been responsible.) Florida also has an “open house parties” statute, F.S. 856.015, that holds a person who owns or controls a residence may not allow an open house party to occur at the residence if alcohol or drugs are being possessed by people known to controlling party to be a minor and where the person fails to take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of the alcohol or drugs. A first offense is a second-degree misdemeanor; second offense OR one that results in serious bodily injury or death is a first-degree misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail). In addition to a criminal conviction, one could be found negligent per se (meaning automatically negligent, regardless of whether they acted reasonably). Continue reading →