A teenage driver was intoxicated when he was involved in a hit and run accident with a woman and her daughter. The woman’s husband was driving nearby and witnessed the collision. The family filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver and his employer, Sergio’s El Ranchito (a restaurant). The court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, and the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District affirmed the judgment in this California car accident case.
On appeal, the family did not challenge the court’s legal analysis of the issues. Instead, they maintained that the court should reverse the judgment because the ruling was based on procedural defects. Namely, the restaurant’s moving papers did not specifically address the negligent supervision allegations and therefore did not properly shift the burden of proof to the family. Additionally, they contended the restaurant’s efforts to address negligent supervision for the first time in its reply brief were improper, and the trial court should not have considered this argument when deciding the motion for summary judgment. The appeals court concluded that neither contention had merit.
The complaint alleged the restaurant negligently supervised its underage employees because the driver either had access to, or was directly provided, alcoholic beverages on the premises. Thus, the family’s theory for recovery was that the restaurant should have known their unsupervised underage employees were going to drink while at work, and therefore it was foreseeable they would drive while intoxicated and injure a third party. To prove this claim, the family needed proof the restaurant was aware the underage employees had access to, or were provided, alcohol during work hours, and it failed to adequately supervise these underage employees by locking up the alcohol.