Colorado Supreme Court Hears Case on Liability for Underage Drinking

Justices get into trial court's findings of fact in oral arguments

Colorado Supreme Court

The Colorado Supreme Court heard Przekurat v. Torres on May 10 at Gunnison High School as part of its Courts in the Community program. The case, which questions liability for providing alcohol to a minor who later caused injury to another, seemed relevant for the high school audience because of the subject matter and the arguments’ focus on the facts.

Arguments turned on the interpretation of the word “knowingly” in the Colorado Dram Shop Act Section 12-47- 801(4)(a)(I). The legislature amended the statute in 2005 to impose civil liability when a social host knowingly provides a person under 21 a place to drink alcohol, in addition to liability for providing the alcohol itself. However, the section begins with a general exemption from liability for social hosts providing alcohol, and knowingly providing alcohol or a place to consume it to an underage person is an exception.

Jerome Przekurat sued on behalf of his son, Jared Przekurat, for serious injuries that rendered him incompetent, which he sustained from a crash as a passenger in a car driven by Hank Sieck. Sieck, then 20, had drunk a substantial amount of alcohol at a house party in Boulder hosted by defendants Christopher Torres, Samuel Stimson, Peter Stimson and Mitchell Davis. Afterward he left with Jared Przekurat and Victor Mejia, driving Przekurat’s car, and caused an accident in which Przekurat was thrown from the car.

Jerome Przekurat sued Torres, Samuel and Peter Stimson and Davis, claiming they should be held liable under the Dram Shop Act’s social host provision. Sieck did not know the hosts, and the district court record did not contain evidence that Sieck or anyone else told the hosts he was under 21.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the May 21, 2018 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.