Hawaii High Court Rules That Party Host Can Be Held Liable

September 6, 2013

The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a party host can be held liable for serving alcohol to a minor who dies from alcohol poisoning, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

The unanimous ruling revives a lawsuit by the family of a 15-year-old girl who died after attending a 2009 party at a then-25-year-old man’s Hawaii Kai home.

The suit claimed Michael Clark served and encouraged Makamae Ah Mook Sang to drink large amounts of hard liquor. According to the lawsuit, Clark didn’t help the teen when she passed out and instead helped load her body in a friend’s car. She was pronounced dead at a hospital. Her blood alcohol content level was five times the limit for drunken driving.

Tuesday’s ruling says Clark can be held liable under the theory that he owed a “duty of care.”

“It has far-reaching ramifications beyond the facts of this case,” said Jonathan Ortiz, Clark’s attorney. He declined to elaborate, saying he still had to “digest” the ruling.

The lawyer for the family of the girl couldn’t be reached for comment.

A Circuit Court judge had dismissed the lawsuit because it didn’t have a basis in the law to proceed.

A state law allows people injured by a drunken person under 21 to sue to the host who served the minor drinks, but the law prohibits the minor from suing the host over the minor’s injuries.

Clark was sentenced in 2010 to a year in jail for providing alcohol to the teen and four other teenage girls at the party. He was ordered to pay nearly $12,000 in fines and restitution and perform 200 hours of community service.

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