Dram Shop liability in New York: Control or Supervision Needed

Another case resolved in today's New York Law Journal tests the reach of the Dram Shop Law (General Obligations Law §11-100). This statute imposes liability against any person who knowingly causes intoxication of a minor by unlawfully furnishing to, or unlawfully assisting in procuring alcohol beverages for that minor. The third party injured in Coreselli v. Wolfe, NYLJ, September 18, 2009, page 28, at col 3, attempted to attach liability on the owner of a house (the "party-thrower's" grandmother) who did not live in the house at the time of the incident, nor was aware of the party when the alleged liability accrued. She only bought the house for her daughter and granddaughter to live in.

The court rejected plaintiff's argument that further discovery was needed to ascertain whether the absentee owner knew or should have known of the party. In other words, whether a duty existed to trigger a negligence claim. The court stated, "while a landowner may be liable for injuries sustained by persons on her property where there is a proven violation of the landowner's duty to act in a reasonable manner, including prevention of harm caused by an intoxicated guest, such liability is premised on the opportunity, not here present, to control and supervise the intoxicated person."

But Judge Lally did not let out the party thrower and her mother. Discovery was needed to ascertain whether these two facilitated the consumption of alcohol by minors, and would therefore be liable under Dram Shop.

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