A few years back, I wrote a blog article entitled Negligent Party Hosts in Indiana May Face Liability. The article provided some general rules and suggestions concerning possible liability issues for people who have parties during the holiday season.
A recent Indiana decision, F. John Rogers, as Personal Representative of Paul Michalik, Deceased, and R. David Boyer, Trustee of the Bankruptcy Estate of Jerry Lee Chambers v. Angela Martin and Brian Paul Brothers, 02A05-1506-CT 520 increases the potential for liability and the responsibilities for a party host.
In that case, the land possessors, defendants Martin and Brothers shared a residence. They threw a party and alcohol was purchased using funds from a joint bank account. Jerry Lee Chambers was a guest at the party.
The party lasted a long time and at some point a number of the guests participated in a poker game in the basement. Martin went to bed. As the party continued, Brothers and Martin became involved in an altercation. Brothers made Martin aware that there had been a fight. Martin got up and accompanied Brothers to the basement. They discovered Chambers laying face down and not moving. Martin had Brothers check on Chamber’s condition and was told that Chambers was unconscious. Martin expressed some concern that Chambers might have alcohol poisoning but at no time did she provide or seek medical assistance for him. Brothers also failed to do so. Subsequently, Chambers was found dead in the front yard. A wrongful death case was filed pursuant to the Indiana Dram Shop Act. The suit also claimed that the Martin and Brothers as land possessors breached a common law duty to use reasonable care for the protection of guests by failing to render aid.
Previously, Indiana law did not require an individual to render aid even if he or she knew that assistance was needed unless there were special relationships that created a duty such as a bus company and its passengers, or a hotel operator and guests, or a possessor of land who invites the public onto the property. The Rogers court added a new category when it ruled that a social host/guest relationship is a special relationship as it relates to the duty to render aid. Further, the Court stated that moral and humanitarian considerations may require a person to render aid, even if the injury was not caused by any of his or her negligent acts or were caused by the acts of the injured person. What is considered reasonable medical care will depend on all of the circumstances, including the background, education and training of the social host. So, Indiana residents who will be hosting holiday parties, NCAA Final Four Parties and Super Bowl Parties must be prepared to provide medical aid if their guests become injured or ill. If they fail to do so, they may find themselves being sued for damages, injuries or wrongful death as Ms. Martin was.
Finally, there is no reason to think that a court may not extend the duty to render aid beyond the social host situation. One example could be if a guest slips and falls on your property, and is injured, even without alcohol being a factor, and regardless of fault.
Attorney Burton A. Padove represents injury victims throughout Indiana and Illinois. Call (219) 836 2200 for a free and confidential consultation and to ask questions about damages, injuries and compensation.