‘Social Host Liability’: Lawsuit Filed In Local New Year’s Eve Crash That Killed Three Young Men
Chain | Cohn | Clark has filed a lawsuit against the owner of the home where several young men allegedly drank alcohol before a crash that killed three of them on New Year’s Eve 2020.
The lawsuit names the mother of one of the young men because the three men in the car, all of whom were below the drinking age, are believed to have consumed alcohol at her home, and is believed to have been home when they were drinking, Chain | Cohn | Clark attorney Matt Clark told KGET-17 News.
One of the young men Adam Teasdale, subsequently got behind the wheel of a Toyota Avalon and crashed nearby, killing Atha, Timothy Michael Wilson and Andrew Nicholas Ortiz, also 20. Teasdale, 20 at the time, is alleged to have been impaired.
“In this instance, we have reason to believe that these young adults, all under the age of 21, consumed alcoholic beverages, including Mr. Teasdale, that they consumed alcoholic beverages to the point of intoxication, including Mr. Teasdale, and roughly two minutes after leaving Ms. Hutchings’ house he gets in an accident and kills three people,” Clark told KGET-17 News.
Teasdale is also a defendant in the suit, which says he “knew that consuming alcoholic beverage to the point of intoxication and impairment of his mental and physical faculties and then driving a motor vehicle was extremely dangerous to human life.”
Teasdale is facing trial on three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
After the crash. the family of Andrew Ortiz – mother Sasha McKeen, stepfather Steven McKeen, and father Michael Ortiz – spoke with KBAK-29 Eyewitness News about the crash, their son, and the dangers of driving under the influence and unbuckled. They were joined also by Matt Clark, accident and injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Clark.
Police said they believe Teasdale was driving about 60 mph when he swerved and lost control at Brimhall Road and Jewetta Avenue in northwest Bakersfield. The car went onto the raised concrete median and slammed into a tree, according to reports. The three people in the back — Atha, Wilson and Ortiz — were thrown through the window. A passenger in the front seat, Teasdale’s girlfriend at the time, suffered minor injuries.
Police found “whip-it” canisters of nitrous oxide — which provide a brief high by inhaling the gas — and a bottle of consumed Fireball Whiskey at the crash scene, according to the media reports. A nitrous oxide canister was also found in one of Teasdale’s pockets.
“I just killed my friends,” he said, according to a witness who lives near where the crash. “Why did I swerve.”
Teasdale refused to take any field sobriety tests at the scene, according to media reports, and would only consent to a blood draw if he was arrested. One officer stated that Teasdale “displayed sings of being under the influence of alcohol.” He also said the devil was inside him.
Teasdale has pleaded not guilty on three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and a hearing is scheduled on April 20.
SOCIAL HOST LIABILITY
Under existing California law, a social host who furnishes alcoholic beverages to any person may not be held legally accountable for damages suffered by that person, or for injury to the person or property of, or death of, any 3rd person, resulting from the consumption of those beverages. This absolved bars, restaurants, and party hosts, for example.
One exception applies when a parent, guardian, or other adult at his or her residence knowingly furnishes alcohol to a person who the host knows is under 21 years of age. In this situation, the social host can be held liable for the actions of the intoxicated underage guest. The host’s liability for damages extends to any injuries suffered by the underage drinker him/herself and to anyone injured by the underage drinker. This is a “social host liability” case.
These laws impose a duty of care on hosts — a parent or any adult who is in charge — not to furnish or serve alcohol to minors. To “furnish” alcohol is to merely make it available, while to “serve” alcohol is to “knowingly and affirmatively deliver” alcohol, according to California law.
Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office – nearly 12 DUI arrests per day. Kern County ranks worst in the state for DUI crashes resulting in injuries, and second most in the United States.
Chain | Cohn | Clark for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Since the law firm’s involvement with the first Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, MADD Kern County has raised nearly $400,000 to help local victims of impaired driving crashes. For its work, Chain | Cohn | Clark has been recognized and honored on several occasions, including receiving a “Community Champion” award and “Pursuit of Justice” award, among others.
If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.
- Major crash leaves 3 dead, MADD warns against drunk driving (23ABC News – Jan. 1, 2021)
- Driver in fatal New Year’s Eve crash enters not guilty plea (23ABC News – Jan. 4, 2021)
- Four friends, three deaths: Aftermath of a New Year’s Eve tragedy (KGET-17, NBC – Jan. 7, 2021)
- ‘I just killed my friends’: Nitrous oxide canisters, whiskey bottle found at scene of New Year’s Eve crash that killed 3 (KGET-17, NBC – Feb. 1, 2021)
- Family of young man who died in New Year’s Eve DUI crash in Bakersfield speak about loss, dangers (KBAK-29, CBS – Feb. 3, 2021)
- Families set out to memorialize victims in New Year’s Eve suspected DUI crash (The Bakersfield Californian – March 24, 2021)
- Alleged drunken driver bound over for trial in triple-fatal crash (KGET-17, NBC – Feb. 14, 2022)
- Lawsuit filed in NYE 2020 triple-fatal crash (KGET-17, NBC – Feb. 22, 2022) (web version)