An "underage" adult, over the age of 18 but under the age of 21, who hosts other underage individuals and permits them to consume alcohol before driving drunk, can be held liable under the common law for foreseeable injuries to others.
This case involved a twenty year old host who permitted two other underage individuals, who had illicitly acquired alcohol from a local convenience store, to consume said alcohol at his parents' house where they became drunk and subsequently drove a motor vehicle. The two drunk individuals were involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in the death of one of them. The decedent's estate sued the underage host seeking to hold him liable for a foreseeable personal injury.
The NJ Supreme Court created a new rule relying heavily on past precedent including case and statutory law. This new rule is as follows:
"A plaintiff injured by an intoxicated underage social guest may succeed in a cause of action against an underage social host if the plaintiff can prove by a preponderance of the evidence the following: (1) The social host knowingly permitted and facilitated the consumption of alcoholic beverages to underage guests in a residence under his control. This element does not require that the social host be a leaseholder or titleholder to the property. It is enough that the social host has the ability and apparent authority to give others access to the property; (2) The social host knowingly provided alcohol to a visibly intoxicated underage guest or knowingly permitted the visibly intoxicated underage guest to serve himself or be served by others. It is no defense that the underage guests bought and brought the alcoholic beverages that they or others consumed; (3) The social host knew or reasonably should have known that the visibly intoxicated social guest would leave the premises and operate a motor vehicle and therefore would foreseeably endanger the lives and property of others; (4) The social host did not take any reasonable steps to prevent the intoxicated guest from getting behind the wheel of the vehicle; and (5) The social guest, as a result of intoxication facilitated by the social host, negligently operated a vehicle and proximately caused injury to a third party."
In summary, if you are an adult and allow people to gather in a place which is "under your control", where knowing consumption of alcohol occurs, and someone over-consumes the alcohol to the point of obvious intoxication, then drives away, and you do not try to stop them, you can be held civilly liable to an injured plaintiff. (Estate of Brandon Tyler Narleski v. Nicholas Gomes)
In a lengthy unpublished decision from the Law Division, a beneficiary of the state funded health insurance plan (NJ Direct Plan) was denied the ability to sustain a legal action filed in the Superior Court. At issue was a benefit determination by the insurer, by no fault of the insured, which resulted in double payment being made to an out of network healthcare provider. Subsequent to the health insurer making double payment for one date of service, the insurer began reducing further payments to this beneficiary and her other healthcare providers. This left the insured to settle each account out-of-pocket.
The error which this insured made was that she did not try to file an internal appeal with the health insurer, and did not follow the steps required by the insurance Plan or the statutory constructs which enables a state funded health insurance plan. Following an adverse benefit determination by a state funded health insurer, the aggrieved insured must file an internal appeal/s, proceed to the State Benefits Healthcare Commission and then the Appellate Division which has original jurisdiction in such matters.
Although in the instant case the insured tried to circumvent the statutory law and the insurer's Plan by asserting a tort occurred, this Court saw through the ruse and held the legal issue here was an adverse benefit determination. The case was dismissed with prejudice and it remains to be seen if the insured can still timely file an appeal and begin the process as outlined in the insurer's Plan. (Tomaszewski v. Horizon Healthcare Services, Inc.)
Peter J. Vazquez, Jr.