ESTATE OF BRANDON TYLER NARLESKI, deceased by Administrator ad Prosequendum, JOHN A. NARLESKI and LORI ANNIELLO-NARLESKI, and JOHN A. NARLESKI, Individually, Plaintiffs,
NICHOLAS GOMES, ORQUIVANES GOMES, and SERGIO GOMES, Defendants, and AMBOY FOOD LIQUOR AND NEWS INC., a/k/a KRAUSZERS, and KRAUSZERS FOOD AND LIQUOR, INC., a/k/a KRAUSZERS FOOD & LIQUOR, INC., Defendants/Third-Party Plaintiffs-Appellants,
MERCEDES APRAEZ, ZDZISLAW ZWIERZYNSKI, and MARK ZWIERZYNSKI, Third-Party Defendants-Respondents.
May 6, 2019
appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division,
Middlesex County, Docket No. L-7085-15.
Robert Scirocco argued the cause for appellant (Law Offices
of Robert A. Scirocco, PC, attorneys; Mark R. Scirocco and
Robert A. Scirocco, of counsel and on the briefs).
Russell L. Macnow argued the cause for respondents.
Judges Sabatino, Haas and Susswein.
tragedy of this wrongful death case began when the defendant
liquor store sold about a half-gallon of vodka and three
twenty-four ounce cans of beer to the nineteen-year-old
decedent without checking his identification. Decedent and a
group of his friends - all of whom were likewise young adults
under the legal drinking age of twenty-one - then converged
at the home of one of the young men. They drank the purchased
alcohol in the young host's bedroom. Decedent then left
the house as a passenger in the car of one of the inebriated
youths. He died when the driver lost control of the car and
it flipped over.
decedent's estate sued the car driver and its owners for
negligence and the liquor store under the Dram Shop Act. The
liquor store pled a third- party complaint against the young
man who had hosted the gathering and his parents, although
the estate declined to name them as direct defendants. The
estate eventually settled its claims with the liquor store
and the driver.
third-party defendants moved for summary judgment. The trial
court granted the motion, finding that neither the underage
adult host nor his parents had breached any established legal
duty. The liquor store now appeals, urging us to recognize
and enforce such duties.
that, under the circumstances presented, the parents had no
statutory or common law duty to prevent their adult underage
son from allowing his adult underage friends to drink alcohol
in their home without the parents' proven knowledge or
consent. Nor did the son have an established duty of care
under current law.
forward, however, we prospectively hold that an adult who is
under the legal drinking age shall owe injured parties a duty
under the common law to desist from facilitating drinking by
underage adults in his or her place of residence. The
recognition of such a legal duty is a logical extension of
case law, and is consistent with the general public policies
that underpin the related statutes.
summarize the pertinent facts presented in the summary
judgment record, mindful that there are a few variations in
the witnesses' narratives. We consider those facts in a
light most favorable to appellant as the non-moving party.
R. 4:46-2; Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of
Am., 142 N.J. 520, 540 (1995).
November 9, 2014, decedent Brandon Narleski purchased a
"handle" of vodka,  three twenty-four ounce cans of
beer, and a two-liter bottle of soda from a liquor store
owned and operated by defendant Amboy Food Liquor and News,
Inc. ("Amboy"). Three young men - Xavier Pinto,
Zachary Johnson, and Mark Zwierzynski - accompanied Narleski to
the liquor store. Notably, all four individuals were adults
over the age of eighteen but were under the legal drinking
age of twenty-one. When Narleski went to the counter to make
his purchase, Amboy's retail clerk did not ask him for a
driver's license or other identification to confirm he
was of legal drinking age.
Narleski purchased the alcohol, the young men drove to
Mark's house, where he lived with his mother, Mercedes
Apraez. While at the residence, the four friends
"hung out" in Mark's bedroom, drank the
purchased alcohol, and played games. Mark's mother was
not home when they arrived. Apparently, she had been out of
the house since the night before.
point during the gathering, Narleski sent a text message to
Nicholas Gomes, who also was an adult under the age of
twenty-one, to come to Mark's house to join the group in
drinking. According to Gomes, he arrived at Mark's house
around 9:00 p.m. Gomes claimed he "downed" two cups
filled with approximately two inches of vodka mixed with
orange juice while he was there.
undisputed that Mark's mother eventually came home that
evening. However, there is some dispute about exactly what
time she arrived. According to Gomes's deposition
testimony, after he was at Mark's residence for about
fifty minutes, Mark received a call that his mother was
coming home. Gomes and Narleski then left the residence to go
to another friend's house.
coming home, Apraez picked up Mark's daughter from the
house of the child's mother. Apraez testified at her
deposition that, except for her son Mark, she never saw any
of the other young men in her house that night, or knew that
they were drinking alcohol there. She insisted that she did
not leave alcohol in her home, nor did she allow Mark to
to Apraez, upon arriving at the house, she sent Mark a text
message and asked him to help bring his daughter inside.
Apraez testified that Mark met her at the front door and
assisted her with the child.
provided slightly different accounts of what occurred. He
testified at his deposition that he could not recall whether
his daughter was present in the house while he and his
friends were drinking. However, in an earlier statement to
the police, Mark stated that, on that night, he
"departed his bedroom to tend to his child in another
room of the residence for a time period of approximately
twenty . . . minutes, and upon his return, at approximately
10 p.m. . . . [he] briefly spoke to Brandon [Narleski] and
Nicholas [Gomes] who then departed the residence in
did admit at his deposition that he had accompanied Narleski
to purchase the alcohol at the liquor store, and that he and
his friends drank the alcohol in his bedroom. He denied that
Gomes and Narleski appeared to him to be intoxicated.
Gomes and Narleski left the house, they got into Gomes's
car, intending to go to a friend's house about fifteen
minutes away. Gomes got into the driver's seat and
fastened his seatbelt. Narleski got into the passenger's
seat, but did not fasten his own seatbelt.
Gomes was driving on a highway, he lost control of the car
and crashed into the center median. As a result of the crash,
Narleski was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead on
analysis of Gomes's blood revealed his blood alcohol
content ("BAC") was .161 at the time of the
accident, well above the .08 legal limit for BAC specified by
wake of this tragedy, the Estate of Brandon Narleski and his
parents filed a wrongful death complaint in the Law Division.
As amended, the complaint alleged that Gomes was liable for
his intoxicated operation of the vehicle that resulted in the
crash and Narleski's death, and that, in addition, Amboy
was liable under the Dram Shop Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:22A-1 to
leave of court, Amboy filed a third-party complaint against
Mark Zwierzynski and his parents, seeking contribution and
indemnity. The third-party complaint alleged that Mark and
his parents were negligent in failing to supervise Narleski
and Gomes, enabling those underage adults to consume alcohol
in their home. Notably, plaintiffs declined to name Mark and
his parents as direct defendants after Amboy brought them
into the case.
close of discovery, the third-party defendants moved for
summary judgment. After hearing oral argument, the trial
court granted the motion in an oral ruling on March 29, 2018.
granting summary judgment, the motion judge concluded that
the third-party defendants did not have a legal duty to
supervise the underage persons who had been drinking alcohol
in their home because those persons were adults. The judge
also found that Mark's father did not reside in the home
at the time and that he clearly had no duty to supervise the
visitors. Additionally, the judge found that Mark's
mother Apraez had no duty under the circumstances presented.
The judge noted in particular that Apraez did not make her
home available "for the purpose of" underage
drinking pursuant to the disorderly persons statute relied
upon by Amboy, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-17(b).Amboy moved for
reconsideration, which the judge denied.
plaintiffs settled their claims with the direct defendants,
i.e., Amboy and Gomes. In the consent order memorializing
that settlement, Amboy preserved its right to ...