Ely v. Murphy

In Ely v. Murphy, 207 Conn. 88, 540 A.2d 54 (1988) the Court concluded that "in view of the legislative determination that minors are incompetent to assimilate responsibly the effects of alcohol and lack the legal capacity to do so, logic dictates that their consumption of alcohol does not, as a matter of law, constitute the intervening act necessary to break the chain of proximate causation and does not, as a matter of law, insulate one who provides alcohol to minors from liability for ensuing injury." Ely v. Murphy, supra, 207 Conn. 95. The tragic facts of Ely concerned the negligent service of alcohol to minors at a high school graduation party. The defendant was the host father who collected $ 3 from each of the 400 teenagers who attended the party. An eighteen year old guest became drunk, and as he left the party in his mother's station wagon, he struck and killed another minor guest. Ely v. Murphy, supra, 207 Conn. 89-90. In recognizing a common-law tort action against individuals who negligently furnish alcoholic beverages to individuals they knew or should have known were minors, the court in Ely held that "this is not to say, however, that the social host or other purveyor of alcohol is absolutely liable to the minor served or innocent third parties thereafter injured. Rather, the matter of proximate cause of the injury and ensuing damage becomes one of fact to be determined in each instance by the court or jury as the parties elect." Ely v. Murphy, supra, 207 Conn. 97.