JORDAN PIKE v. BLAKE BUGBEE et al., SC 18456
Judicial District of Hartford
Torts; Whether the Trial Court Properly Struck the Plaintiff's Claims of Negligence and Parental Liability. A fight occurred at a party at the home of William and Janet Bugbee (the parents) that was hosted by their son, Blake Bugbee, when they were not present. The plaintiff attended the party as an invited guest of Blake Bugbee. After several of the guests consumed alcohol or marijuana, which Blake Bugbee supplied, the plaintiff was stabbed in the altercation. The plaintiff, who sustained serious injuries, brought this action, which contained a count directed at the parents. The parents moved to strike that count, arguing that the harm to the plaintiff was not foreseeable and, as a result, they owed no duty to the plaintiff. They further argued that they could not be held liable because they were neither purveyors of alcohol to minors nor social hosts at the party. The trial court granted the parents' motion to strike, and the plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Court. On appeal, he argued that the stricken count provided a legally sufficient basis for a claim of parental liability under General Statutes § 52-572. In rejecting this claim, the Appellate Court (115 Conn. App. 820) found that the plaintiff never referred to § 52-572 in his complaint and never alleged that Blake Bugbee was a minor, which would have indicated that the plaintiff intended to allege that the parents were vicariously liable for their son's actions. It concluded that one could not reasonably infer from the facts alleged that Blake Bugbee was a minor and, therefore, the plaintiff's claim was without merit. The plaintiff next argued that the trial court improperly concluded that liability did not extend to the parents because they took no active part in the procurement or purveyance of alcohol - even though it found that the harm he suffered may have been foreseeable. The Appellate Court noted that a tort action will not lie against a social host who furnishes intoxicating liquor to a person who voluntarily becomes intoxicated and, as a consequence, injures himself or another. It also noted that an exception to the rule exists when alcohol is furnished to a minor. The plaintiff's position was that the parents were liable under that exception. The Appellate Court disagreed, stating that his allegations that minors attended the party and were supplied with alcohol did not in itself implicate the exception. It further stated that because the plaintiff had not alleged that the intoxicated individuals involved in the fight were minors or that the resulting injuries were caused by an intoxicated minor, the plaintiff failed to assert sufficient facts to establish a basis for the parents' liability. The plaintiff's final claim was that the stricken count contained sufficient allegations of the parents' scienter to preclude the granting of their motion to strike. The Appellate Court rejected this claim because it was not supported by any specifically identified allegations and because it was premised on a misreading of nonbinding law. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court's ruling granting the parents' motion to strike.