California Court of Appeal Holds Defendant’s Decision to Drive Drunk Caused Vehicle Accident, Not Hotel’s Decision to Throw Defendant Off Premises

In a case before the California Court of Appeal, the court reviewed the issue of causation in a personal injury lawsuit based on an underlying vehicle collision caused by a drunk driver.  California law holds generally that social hosts who furnish alcohol to guests cannot be liable for injuries caused by guests.
In this case, a hotel threw out an intoxicated individual who then drove his vehicle and caused a serious car accident.  The appellate court stated that the hotel did not cause the accident, and while the hotel may have a special relationship with guests, it is not required to protect them from harm outside the hotel.

Christopher Lee Zink and his friends partied, and after a night of drinking, Mr. Zink  and his friends returned to Clock Tower Hotel and arranged to stay the evening.  In the early morning hours, the Hotel demanded that Mr. Zink leave the premises, threatening to involve police if he did not leave.  Mr. Zink asked the Hotel representative to reconsider, but they refused.  Mr. Zink then proceeded to drive home, approximately 20 miles.

While driving home, Mr. Zink collided with another car at the intersection of Channel Island Boulevard and Rice Road.  The other driver, Francisco Briones, sued Mr. Zink for damages from the accident.  Mr. Briones suffered a serious spinal cord injury that rendered him a quadriplegic.  Mr. Zink was incarcerated at the time of the civil lawsuit.

Mr. Zink cross-complained against the hotel, on the grounds that it breached a duty not to throw him out of the hotel in a drunken state.  The Hotel demurred to Mr. Zink’s third amended cross-complaint, and the court sustained without leave to amend. Mr. Zink appealed.

On appeal, the court reviewed the third amended cross-complaint to determine whether it contained sufficient allegations to state a cause of action under any legal theory.

The court turned to the Civil Code and the rule that consuming alcoholic beverages must be the proximate cause of injuries inflicted on another person by an intoxicated person.  The purpose of the rule was to overturn Supreme Court cases that held that social hosts that had served alcohol could be found liable for injuries caused by guests.

Here, Mr. Zink argued that a special relationship existed between the Hotel and its guests.  He contended the Hotel had a duty to protect guests from foreseeable harm. The court rejected this contention.  They stated that the Hotel did not cause the vehicle collision.  The collision was solely the result of Mr. Zink’s decision to drive while intoxicated.  Since Mr. Zink’s claims lacked causation, they could not survive.  The court also stated that if the Hotel owed a duty to guests, due to its special relationship with them, this duty does not protect guests from harm outside the hotel.

The appellate court stated that Mr. Zink cannot state a cause of action. The judgment was affirmed.

At Sharifi Firm, our car accident attorneys diligently provide legal guidance and representation to injured individuals throughout Southern California.  We help car accident victims pursue personal injury claims for compensation. Contact our office today for a free consultation at 866-422-7222 or complete our online form.

More Blog Posts:

California Appellate Court Upholds Finding that Plaintiff Partially Caused Motor Vehicle Collision, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, April 7, 2016

California Court of Appeals Allows Cross-Defendant to Recover Costs in Car Accident Lawsuit, Remands to Determine Reasonable and Necessary Costs, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, February 22, 2016

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