The Supreme Court of New Jersey has granted a petition of certification in the matter of Estate of Brandon Tyler Narleski v Nicholas Gomes, A-9-10-19, to review whether an adult, who is under the legal drinking age, owes injured parties a duty under the common law to desist from facilitating drinking by underage adults at his or her place of residence. GRSLBG&B first reported about this matter in our recent article, Gracious Hosts Don’t Serve Alcohol to Underage Adults, where it was discussed that the Appellate Division held that a young adult, under twenty-one, can be civilly liable for facilitating the underage drinking of other young adults at his or her place of residence.
By way of background, Brandon Narleski, Mark Zwierzynski, and two other friends, all of whom were adults under the age of twenty-one, purchased alcohol from a liquor store without presenting identification. After drinking the alcohol at Zwierzynski’s home, Nicolas Gomes set out to drive Narleski to another friend’s house when he lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a highway median. His blood alcohol level was more than double the legal limit.
The Zwierzynskis moved for summary judgement which was granted as the trial court concluded that Zwierzynski and his parents did not have a legal duty to supervise the underage individuals because they were legal adults. Although the Appellate Division upheld the grant of Summary judgment in favor of Zwierzynski, finding that he did not qualify as a social host given his age, the Appellate Division held that going forward, a young adult, under twenty-one, can be civilly liable for facilitating the underage drinking of other underage adults at his or her place of residence.
Indeed, if the Appellate Division’s holding is upheld by the Supreme Court, it will have will have the effect of creating a new avenue of liability under the “Social Host Liability Statute”. The Supreme Court will need to examine whether this “new law” is consistent with the legislative intent under the Statute, and not judicial overreach into the Legislature’s jurisdicition. Clearly, should the Supreme Court uphold the Appellate Division’s finding, the Social Host Liability Statute will be expanded, opening up homeowners and insurance carriers to new exposure not previously present. GRSLBG&B will continue to monitor this issue, and will keep you apprised of new developments as they arise.
 Russ M. Patane, Esq. is a Shareholder in GRSLBG&B’s Litigation Department. He defends a wide variety of clients in various civil actions brought forth in New Jersey State and New York State and Federal Courts. Russ can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Hristo “Chris” Zevilkaris, Esq. is an Associate in GRSLBG&B’s Litigation Department. He defends a wide variety of clients in various civil actions brought forth in New Jersey State and Federal Courts. Chris can be reached at email@example.com.