Social Host Liability

The Tennessee Supreme Court has released another important tort opinion, Biscan v. Brown.

This opinion examined several important questions, including “whether an adult who hosts a party for minors and knows in advance that alcohol will be consumed has or may voluntarily assume a duty of care towards the minor guests.” The Court held that the defendant adult host had such a duty of care even though he did not furnish any alcohol.

The Court also held that the “trial court did not err in excluding evidence regarding the minor plaintiff’s prior alcohol-related offenses and her prior experience with alcohol and that the trial court did not err in determining that the plaintiff’s sister was not at fault as a matter of law pursuant to Tennessee’s statutory shield for furnishers of alcoholic beverages.”

The opinion was authored by Justice Anderson. Chief Justice Drowota authored a partial dissent.

The opinions have a fascinating discussion of an important aspect of comparative fault law – the attribution of fault to a person who the plaintiff could not have sued. It was this issue that gave rise to the dissent of the Chief Justice.

Once again, I have an early morning meeting (complicated by a brief due in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals) and cannot discuss this case in detail. I will try to put something together for you this weekend.