August 26, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Social Host Must Have Actual Knowledge that Specific Guest Underage to be Held Liable for Injuries

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Przekurat v. Torres on Monday, September 10, 2018.

Statutory Construction—Colorado Dram Shop Act.

The supreme court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals. The court held that, under the plain language of C.R.S. § 12-47-801(4)(a), 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.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Dram Shop Amendments Require Knowledge of Drinker’s Underage Status and Alcohol Consumption

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Przekurat v. Torres on Thursday, December 1, 2016.

Dram Shop Act—Intoxication—Knowledge—Evidence.

Sieck drove Przekurat home from a party in Przekurat’s car. Sieck, who was highly intoxicated at the time of the accident and was under 21 years old, drove at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour before losing control of the car and colliding with an embankment. Przekurat sustained catastrophic injuries, including brain damage. Przekurat’s father sued the four hosts of the party, claiming they “knowingly provided [Sieck] a place to consume an alcoholic beverage” and thus were liable for his damages under the 2005 amendments to the Dram Shop Act. The trial court granted the hosts’ summary judgment motion.

On appeal, Przekurat argued that the district court erred when it held that C.R.S. § 12-47-801(4)(a)(I) of the Dram Shop Act requires actual knowledge of two separate elements: (1) that the defendant provided a place for the consumption of alcohol by a person under the age of 21, and (2) that the defendant knew that the person who consumed alcohol at that place was under age 21. The statutory requirement of “knowingly” applies to all of the elements of liability under the 2005 amendments. Therefore, the trial court correctly construed the 2005 amendments and also correctly determined that Przekurat failed to demonstrate a disputed issue of material fact regarding the hosts’ knowledge that Sieck was underage and was drinking at the party.

Przekurat next argued that the district court’s summary judgment must be reversed because he offered abundant evidence that the hosts knew that they were hosting an “open” party and providing a venue to underage guests, including Sieck, to drink indiscriminately. Although circumstantial evidence is admissible to prove knowledge under the statute, Przekurat did not offer any evidence, circumstantial or direct, that would permit a reasonable inference that any of the hosts knew Sieck, much less that they knew his age, or that Sieck appeared to be obviously underage.

Przekurat next argued that the district court erred in concluding that it did not have jurisdiction to rule on his motion for reconsideration of summary judgment in favor of the hosts. The Colorado Court of Appeals agreed that the district court erroneously denied the C.R.C.P. 59 motion for lack of jurisdiction, but the error does not require reversal or a remand.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Hotel Has Duty of Reasonable Care to Intoxicated Guests During Lawful Eviction

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Westin Operator, LLC v. Groh on Monday, April 13, 2015.

Summary Judgment—Negligence—Innkeeper–Guest Special Relationship—First Impression Duty of Care During Eviction—Colorado Dram Shop Act.

Through her parents, Jillian Groh sought to hold the Westin Hotel responsible for serious injuries she sustained in a drunk-driving accident following a lawful eviction from the Westin. The Westin filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. The court of appeals initially affirmed the summary judgment order. The court of appeals then granted Groh’s petition for rehearing. A different panel withdrew the first court of appeals opinion, held that a hotel has a duty to evict a guest “in a reasonable manner,” and reversed the summary judgment order with respect to Groh’s claims of negligence and negligent hiring and training.

For the first time, the Supreme Court examined the duty of care a hotel owes a guest during a lawful eviction. Based on the special relationship that exists between an innkeeper and guest, the Court held that a hotel that evicts a guest has a duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. This requires the hotel to refrain from evicting an intoxicated guest into a foreseeably dangerous environment. Whether a foreseeably dangerous environment existed at the time of eviction depends on the guest’s physical state and the conditions into which he or she was evicted, including the time, the surroundings, and the weather. In this case, genuine issues of material fact preclude summary judgment on Groh’s negligence-related claims.

The Court also considered whether the Dram Shop Act of the Colorado Liquor Code, CRS § 12-47-801, applies to this case. The Court concluded that the Act does not apply because it is undisputed that the Westin did not serve alcohol to Groh. Consequently, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.