California Civil Code 1714 makes each person liable for their own actions, whether intentional or negligent. Intoxicated people are solely responsible for any harm they cause while under the influence. But adults who give underage people alcohol in their home can be liable in a personal injury case if someone consequently gets hurt or killed.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
CC 1714. (a) Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself. The design, distribution, or marketing of firearms and ammunition is not exempt from the duty to use ordinary care and skill that is required by this section. The extent of liability in these cases is defined by the Title on Compensatory Relief.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to abrogate the holdings in cases such as Vesely v. Sager (1971) 5 Cal.3d 153, Bernhard v. Harrah’s Club (1976) 16 Cal.3d 313, and Coulter v. Superior Court (1978) 21 Cal.3d 144 and to reinstate the prior judicial interpretation of this section as it relates to proximate cause for injuries incurred as a result of furnishing alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person, namely that the furnishing of alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries resulting from intoxication, but rather the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person.
(c) Except as provided in subdivision (d), no social host who furnishes alcoholic beverages to any person may be held legally accountable for damages suffered by that person, or for injury to the person or property of, or death of, any third person, resulting from the consumption of those beverages.
(1) Nothing in subdivision (c) shall preclude a claim against a parent, guardian, or another adult who knowingly furnishes alcoholic beverages at his or her residence to a person whom he or she knows, or should have known, to be under 21 years of age, in which case, notwithstanding subdivision (b), the furnishing of the alcoholic beverage may be found to be the proximate cause of resulting injuries or death.
(2) A claim under this subdivision may be brought by, or on behalf of, the person under 21 years of age or by a person who was harmed by the person under 21 years of age.
Under California Civil Code 1714 CC, every person is legally responsible for the results of both their intentional actions as well as their negligent ones. Even if a person does not mean to injure someone or something, the person can be held legally responsible if their willful, reckless, or negligent actions caused the harm.
CC 1714 also states people who give alcohol to adults are not responsible for any harm those adults cause while intoxicated. Therefore, restaurants and bartenders are not to blame if their customers end up causing a car crash. Only the customers would be held responsible.
But if an adult knowingly gives alcohol to person under 21-years old in their home – and that young person injures or kills someone while under the influence – then the adult can be legally liable.1
- California Civil Code 1714 CC – Responsibility for willful acts or negligence; Proximate cause of injuries resulting from furnishing alcohol to intoxicated person; Liability of social host; Provision of alcoholic beverages to persons under 21 years of age. See, for example: Mayes v. La Sierra University (Cal. App. 4th Dist., 2022), 288 Cal. Rptr. 3d 693; Sheen v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (Cal., 2022), 12 Cal. 5th 905.