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Reversal: Host owed duty to guest who died after drinking, fight

December 14, 2015

The host of a birthday party for her live-in boyfriend had a duty to render aid to a guest she saw unconscious after he’d been drinking and involved in a fight, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. The man later died.

The Court of Appeals reinstated a Dram Shop Act claim against Angela Martin and Brian Paul Brothers, who hosted a birthday party in 2010 where Paul Michalik died. Martin went to bed around 2 a.m. as the party wound down, but was awakened by Brothers at around 3:30 a.m., according to the record.

Brothers told Martin that Michalik and another man had been fighting, and she went to the basement and saw him lying unconscious on the floor. Brothers and another man checked for a pulse and confirmed Michalik was breathing, then carried him upstairs to leave.

Martin told Brothers to make sure the men left, but a short time later, police arrived and found Michalik dead in Martin’s yard. Allen Superior Judge Craig J. Bobay granted summary judgment in favor of Martin, but the Court of Appeals reversed Monday in F. John Rogers, as Personal Representative of Paul Michalik, Deceased, and R. David Boyer, Trustee of the Bankruptcy Estate of Jerry Lee Chambers v. Angela Martin and Brian Paul Brothers, 02A05-1506-CT-520.

“Because there is a question of fact regarding whether Martin furnished alcohol to Brothers, the trial court erroneously granted summary judgment to Martin on the Appellants’ Dram Shop Act claim,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the panel. “Further, we conclude that Martin, as a social host, owed Michalik a duty render aid, and questions of fact remain regarding whether she breached that duty.”

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