Defendants, Emil and Phyllis Metz, move for summary judgment.
The defendants are the owners of a dwelling known as 8 Balmiere Parkway, Cranford, N.J. On October 21, 1989, while the Metzes were away from home, their son, Greg Metz, hosted a party at the premises which was attended by twenty to thirty persons each of whom contributed the sum of $3.00 towards the cost of the party. Plaintiff alleges that during the course of the evening, the defendant, Richard Maybee, Jr. (Maybee) became intoxicated and demonstrated loud and aggressive behavior. Plaintiff contends that Maybee, while intoxicated, came up to the plaintiff while he was standing in the driveway and grabbed him, thereby causing the plaintiff to slip on wet leaves and fall to the ground. Plaintiff alleges that Maybee then punched and kicked him causing the plaintiff to sustain injuries. Maybee has described his condition on the night in question as "maybe" having
been intoxicated and by saying "he was buzzed." Plaintiff and Greg Metz are adults.
Plaintiff has brought an action against Maybee and the Metzes claiming that the Metzes are negligent because Maybee was served with intoxicating beverages and that it was his intoxication which brought about the assault.*fn1
Defendants Metz respond that they cannot be held negligent for serving alcoholic beverages to Maybee because both the common law and the social host statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:15-5.7, immunizes them from any liability to the plaintiff.
Until 1959, the common law in New Jersey, and generally throughout the country, was that a cause of action for negligence could not lie against a social host who served alcohol to an intoxicated adult.
The general rule at common law is that it is not a tort to either sell or give intoxicating liquor to an ordinary able-bodied person, and no cause of action exists against one furnishing liquor in favor of those injured by intoxication of the person so furnished. The reason usually given for this rule is that the drinking of liquor, not the furnishing of it, is the proximate cause of the injury. [62 ALR4th, 17, 22, Social Host Liability.]
In 1959, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided the case of Rappaport v. Nichols, 31 N.J. 188, 156 A.2d 1 (1959). In that case, the Supreme Court held that a tavern keeper who serves a minor or an intoxicated person may be liable for negligence to a third person who is injured by the conduct of the person who has been served the intoxicating beverages.
Two New Jersey cases extended the Rappaport principle to social hosts. In Linn v. Rand, 140 N.J. Super. 212, 356 A.2d 15 (1976), the Appellate Division held that a social host who furnished excessive amounts of intoxicating liquor to a minor, knowing that
the minor was about to drive an automobile, could be held liable for the intoxicated minor's negligent act which caused injury to an innocent third party. The court said:
The forward-looking and far-reaching philosophy expressed in Rappaport should also be applicable to negligent social hosts and should not be limited to holders of ...