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The parents of a minor who hosted an underage drinking party cannot be held responsible for the death of a minor killed in an alcohol-related accident after the party, a common pleas court judge has ruled. “Based on the record, … we find that the [plaintiffs] have failed to assert facts sufficient to warrant a finding that the [defendants] either knew or should have known that the alcohol stored at their residence for their private use, and that had been purchased some time ago, would be consumed by minors acting without their consent and in violation of the law,” Allegheny County, Pa., Court of Common Pleas Judge Cynthia A. Baldwin wrote. Baldwin filed an opinion in Winwood v. Bregman (Baldwin, J.; C.P. Allegheny Jan. 4, 2001), after the plaintiffs appealed the judge’s award of summary judgment in favor of defendants Charles and Carol Bregman. Timothy Winwood, a minor, was killed in an automobile accident after drinking alcohol at the Bregmans’ home. Timothy’s parents, Patrick and Barbara Winwood, argued that the Bregmans “knowingly furnished” Brian Winwood with the alcohol that led to the accident that killed Timothy. Brian also filed suit against the Bregmans, but the court consolidated the cases for discovery and trial purposes. The Winwoods asserted they were entitled to the recovery of damages on the theory of social host liability. Under Pennsylvania Supreme Court case law, the court said, a plaintiff can hold a social host responsible if the plaintiff can establish that the host “knowingly furnished” the alcohol to minors. The Winwoods alleged that the Bregmans knew there was going to be a gathering of minors at their home while they were not home, that the Bregmans knew “that they could not trust one of the minors at the gathering,” and that the Bregmans knew that their liquor supply, kept on an open shelf, would be accessible to the minors. The Winwoods said the Bregmans “knew” there was a possibility that the minors would drink the alcohol. The court, however, disagreed with the Winwoods’ reasoning, finding insufficient evidence to submit the case to a jury. “All parties concede that the Bregmans were not present at their residence when the minors consumed the alcohol, and that the Bregmans did not authorize anyone at their residence to serve any liquor or drink alcohol in their absence,” Baldwin wrote. “The evidence of record also establishes that the driver of the vehicle, as well as his minor passengers, had all been drinking alcohol obtained from some other (unknown) source before gathering at the Bregmans’ residence.” The court said it was also clear that the Bregmans did not plan the event nor did they buy any alcohol for the event. Baldwin said, therefore, the record was “devoid” of any evidence establishing that the Bregmans knowingly furnished alcohol to any minors. Baldwin said that given the lack of evidence, summary judgment was appropriate. ‘NANTY-GLO’ RULE The Winwoods also argued that the trial court was wrong not to let a jury decide the case under a rule established in Nanty-Glo v. American Surety Co., 162 A. 523 (Pa. 1932), commonly referred to as the Nanty-Glo rule. The Winwoods said the record contained probative facts that would allow a jury to conclude that Timothy’s parents should recover damages from the Bregmans under the theory of social host liability. Under the Nanty-Glo rule, a judge must decide if a plaintiff has supplied enough evidence to make a prima facie case. If the plaintiff meets the first part of the test, the judge then must determine if there are any discrepancies in the material facts of the case. Finally, the judge must decide whether, after the first two prongs of the test are met, summary judgment would usurp the role of the jury. First, Baldwin noted again that the Winwoods were unable to establish a prima facie case. “Even if we were to find that the Winwoods met the first part of the test … , we are unable to reasonably conclude that there are unresolved discrepancies concerning the material facts of this case,” Baldwin wrote. “In particular, we note that the testimonial and documentary evidence presented by the parties in this case fails to raise any unresolved issues of material fact. In other words, we find that the Winwoods have also failed to meet the second part of the test.” “Thus, we find that the Bregmans cannot be held responsible as social hosts under the law.”

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