The Richmond Register

December 18, 2012

The case of the Christmas Eve guzzler

You be the judge

By Jack Strauss
Register Columnist

BEREA — When George’s eyesight began to blur at Mr. Hopple’s Christmas Eve dinner party, George mistakenly concluded that he needed stronger glasses instead of weaker drinks.

The result?

George had a few more refills and, by the time he drove home, he was unable to spot Timothy crossing an intersection and hit him.

Crash landing in a hospital, Timothy not only sued George for his injuries – he also sued Mr. Hopple.

“He can’t sue me,” protested Mr. Hopple in court. “I wasn’t driving George’s car. At the time of the accident, I was home in bed waiting for Santa Claus.”

“Maybe so,” responded Timothy, “but he’s still the guy to blame. When you consider how he plied George with drinks, the accident was more his fault than George’s.”

IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE, would you make Mr. Hopple pay Timothy for his injuries?

This is how the judge ruled: NO! The judge held that a host cannot be held accountable if a guest exceeds his liquor tolerance at a social gathering. The implication of ruling otherwise, noted the judge, would be too far reaching. For example, a host would have to be able to determine how much liquor each of his guests could hold at gatherings such as family celebrations and picnics, and how could he be expected to determine that?

(Based upon a 1977 New York Court of Appeals Decision)

Jack Strauss, a retired New York City trial attorney who now resides in Berea, wrote a syndicated column for 36 years called, “What’s the Law?” It appeared in papers coast to coast, including the Pittsburgh Press, the Los Angeles Examiner, the Hartford Times, the Kansas City Star and the Philadelphia Daily News, among many others. It appears here with his permission.

Copyright, 1979, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.