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Linn v. Rand

Decided: March 29, 1976.

GLENN LINN, AN INFANT BY HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, CHARLES LINN, AND CHARLES LINN INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
LUCY E. RAND, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND THOMAS NACNODOVITZ AND WAYNE J. PATENAUDE, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



Halpern, Crane and Michels. The opinion of the court was delivered by Halpern, P.J.A.D.

Halpern

Plaintiffs Glenn Linn, an infant by his guardian ad litem , Charles Linn and Charles Linn individually (hereinafter referred to as plaintiff), with leave granted, appeal from a summary judgment in favor of Thomas Nacnodovitz dismissing their amended complaint for personal injuries sustained by Glenn Linn, a pedestrian, when hit by a car driven by Lucy E. Rand.

Plaintiff charged Nacnodovitz with negligence in serving an excessive amount of alcoholic beverages to defendant Rand, a minor, while she was a guest at his home. Plaintiff further charged Nacnodovitz with negligently permitting Rand to drive her car from his home just prior to Rand's running down and seriously injuring plaintiff.

Nacnodovitz's answer denied negligence and, among other separate defenses, alleged that the "defendant was under no duty to the plaintiffs herein" and reserved the right to strike the amended complaint on the ground that it failed to set forth a cause of action against him. Nacnodovitz then moved for summary judgment supported solely by the affidavit of his attorney which merely recited some of the allegations in the amended complaint and referred to an answer by plaintiff of an interrogatory requiring him to set forth the basis of his claim. The answer given was "The defendant, Thomas Nacnodovitz, negligently allowed the defendant, Lucy Rand to consume quanities [sic] of alcohol at his residence and further allowed her to drive on the highway of the State of New Jersey in an unsober condition."

We pause to point out that there was nothing before the trial judge on the summary judgment motion, or in the record before us, to indicate the exact age of Rand,*fn1 whether she was licensed to drive a car, the amount of alcohol furnished by Nacnodovitz to Rand or his knowledge of her physical condition when she left his home. In short, we are merely indicating the sparse factual record on which summary judgment was granted.

It is obvious the trial judge was not too concerned about the facts because he considered the issue before him as one of law only. In granting the motion he relied principally upon Rappaport v. Nichols , 31 N.J. 188 (1959), and Anslinger v. Martinsville Inn, Inc. , 121 N.J. Super. 525 (App. Div. 1972), certif. den. 62 N.J. 334 (1973). Among other things, the trial judge in his oral opinion held:

In Anslinger the Appellate Division held that liability in negligence for the sale or serving of alcoholic beverages to intoxicated persons or minors is specifically limited to tavern keepers or to those in a strictly business setting. The Appellate Division refused to hold quasi -business organizations liable for the actions of drunken guests at their social affairs.

Having considered the arguments of counsel, it is this court's opinion that the rule of Rappaport must be followed without the expansion urged by plaintiff's counsel. To do otherwise could create limitless implications as to the liability of anyone who gives liquor to another solely as a gesture of friendship or good fellowship. This court is unwilling to give its stamp of approval to such an expanded concept of liability.

This leaves for determination the narrow legal issue of whether Nacnodovitz owed a legal duty of exercising reasonable care to protect third parties from the negligent acts of Rand. Stating the problem another way, in general terms,

the issue is whether a person (not the holder of a liquor license), who furnishes excessive amounts of intoxicating liquors to a minor on a social occasion, may be held liable for the intoxicated minor's negligent acts which cause injury to an innocent third party. We have concluded that such a person, where the facts presented warrant it, may be held responsible by a jury, and therefore reverse the granting of summary judgment.

It is fundamental that a motion for summary judgment should be granted only if the pleadings, depositions and admissions on file show palpably that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. R. 4:46-2; Judson v. Peoples Bank & Trust Co. of Westfield , 17 N.J. 67, 73-75 (1954). Such motions are granted only with much caution, Devlin v. Surgent , 18 N.J. 148, 154 (1955), and where there are genuine disputed issues of fact, they must be resolved at a plenary hearing. Wilson v. Miller , 25 N.J. Super. 280, 289 (App. Div. 1953). In deciding whether a genuine issue as to any material fact exists, the moving papers and pleadings are considered most favorably for the party opposing the motion and all doubts are resolved against the ...


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