Kiriakos v. Dankos, No. 20

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtOpinion by Adkins, J.
Decision Date05 July 2016
Docket NumberNo. 20,No. 55



No. 20
No. 55


Argued: February 4, 2016
September Term, 2015
July 5, 2016

NEGLIGENCESTATUTE OR ORDINANCE RULEADULT RESPONSIBILITY FOR UNDERAGE CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL: It is evidence of negligence when an adult intentionally and knowingly allows an underage person to consume alcohol to the point of intoxication on her property, in violation of Md. Code (2002, 2012 Repl. Vol.), § 10-117(b) of the Criminal Law Article ("CR"), and the intoxicated underage person is injured because he could not make an intelligent choice to protect himself. CR § 10-117(b) was designed to protect underage persons from the harm that alcohol poses to them and those third parties injured thereby as a proximate cause of the minor's intoxication.

NEGLIGENCECOMMON LAW DUTYINJURIES TO A THIRD PARTY FROM UNDERAGE CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL ON AN ADULT'S PROPERTY: When an adult furnishes alcohol to an underage person on his property, and intentionally and knowingly allows such consumption, in violation of CR § 10-117(b), the adult increases the risk of harm to others because of the underage person's improper conduct of driving while under the influence of alcohol. The adult may then be subject to a duty to a third person depending upon the circumstances.

NEGLIGENCEPROXIMATE CAUSEUNDERAGE DRINKER'S DECISION TO DRINK ON AN ADULT'S PROPERTY: When an adult intentionally and knowingly allows an underage person to consume alcohol on his property, in violation of CR § 10-117(b), the underage person's decision to drink alcohol does not, as a matter of law, preclude a finding that the adult is a proximate cause of injuries that flow from the intoxicated underage person's conduct.

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Manal Kiriakos v. Brandon Phillips
Circuit Court for Baltimore County
Case No.: 03-C-11-009991

Nancy Dankos, et al. v. Linda Stapf
Circuit Court for Howard County
Case No.: 13-C-12-092909 MT

Barbera, C.J. *Battaglia Greene Adkins McDonald Harrell, Glenn T., Jr. (Retired, Specially Assigned) Wilner, Alan M. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

Opinion by Adkins, J.

* Battaglia, J., now retired, participated in the hearing and conference of this case while an active member of this Court; after being recalled pursuant to the Constitution, Article IV, Section 3A, she also participated in the decision and adoption of this opinion.

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Although young people "are close to a lifelong peak of physical health, strength, and mental capacity,"1 they are still developing in profound ways suggesting that they, in contrast to adults, are not capable of handling the more dangerous elements this world offers. See Terry A. Maroney, The False Promise of Adolescent Brain Science in Juvenile Justice, 85 Notre Dame L. Rev. 89, 100 (2009) ("[B]y the early 2000s neuroscience supported the notion that teen brains are structurally and functionally different from those of both children and adults."). Prominent among these dangers, and front and center in these cases, is alcohol. Today we address to what extent adults who allow underage persons to drink alcohol on their property—in violation of Md. Code (2002, 2012 Repl. Vol.), § 10-117(b) of the Criminal Law Article ("CR")—are liable for injuries arising from the youth's intoxication.

The harm that alcohol poses to youths is pernicious, pervasive, and deadly2 especially when motor vehicles are involved. See H.B. 299, Fiscal & Policy Note, 2009 Reg. Sess., at 5 (Md. 2009) ("According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, alcohol-impaired driving is one of the nation's deadliest crimes."); id. (explaining that, among all

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fatally injured alcohol-impaired drivers, the percentage of such drivers aged 16 to 20 "has hovered around 25%" since 1995).3

Maryland established the minimum drinking age of 21 in 1982. See Maryland Code (1957, 1996 Repl. Vol.), § 400A of Article 27; H.B. 85, Reg. Sess. (Md. 1982).4 Unsurprisingly, underage people attempt to drink in spite of this law. One way underage people can circumvent a minimum drinking age law is to turn to adults over 21.

The General Assembly targeted adults in the fight to protect youths from alcohol when, in 1996, it enacted CR § 10-117(b). CR § 10-117(b), which contains exceptions not pertinent to the cases before us,5 states that "an adult may not knowingly and willfully

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allow an individual under the age of 21 years actually to possess or consume an alcoholic beverage at a residence, or within the curtilage of a residence that the adult owns or leases and in which the adult resides."

It is against this backdrop that we confront two cases with the dangerous common denominator of underage people drinking alcohol on an adult's property, and then leaving that property in a motor vehicle. With respect to both cases, the facts are as alleged by the Petitioners in their complaints, or in the Kiriakos case, in the Motion For Summary Judgment, Opposition, or attachments thereto. In both cases, the consumption of alcohol was done with the knowledge and consent of the adult property owner.


Case No. 55: Dankos

17-year-old Steven Dankos ("Steven") became intoxicated during a party at Linda Stapf's house on the evening of November 28, 2009.6 When Steven left early the next morning, still intoxicated, he rode in the bed of David Erdman's pickup truck. Erdman, another intoxicated partygoer who was 22 years old, crashed the truck shortly after leaving, and Steven was killed.

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When Stapf first came home during the party, she found a large crowd at her house.7 Stapf told her son Kevin that some people would have to leave, but she permitted him and some others to continue partying in the garage. Although Stapf knew some (like Kevin) were under 21 and some under 18, she allowed them to keep drinking.

During the party, Stapf sat in the kitchen near the garage and played solitaire. Alcohol was kept in the garage and made available to all guests. At least four times, she entered the garage to observe the goings-on. Although Stapf asked them to turn down the music, she did not ask or tell them to limit or stop drinking.

When Kelsey Erdman ("Kelsey") approached Stapf in the kitchen to express her concerns about her brother driving while intoxicated, Stapf did nothing. Stapf did not tell Kelsey to drive Erdman home, nor call Erdman's parents, nor even check on his condition. Stapf also did not attempt to prevent any intoxicated guests from driving off her premises.

Erdman crashed shortly after leaving the party. Steven, who rode in the truck bed, was ejected and killed.8 The State charged Stapf with violating CR § 10-117(b), but ultimately stetted this charge.

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In May 2013, Nancy Dankos, Steven's mother, filed an amended complaint ("Amended Complaint"),9 alleging various claims against Stapf that sounded in negligence: common law social host liability; breach of duties arising out of Maryland criminal law statutes;10 breach of a duty to act;11 a wrongful death claim; and a survival action. Stapf filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, arguing principally that Dankos had failed to allege the breach of a legally cognizable duty. The Circuit Court for Howard County granted the motion in substantial part.12

Following her timely notice of appeal,13 the Court of Special Appeals affirmed. Davis v. Stapf, 224 Md. App. 393, 398, cert. granted sub nom. Dankos v. Stapf, 445 Md. 4 (2015).14 Although the intermediate appellate court concluded that Dankos properly alleged a duty, it still affirmed the dismissal for lack of proximate cause. Id. at 424-25.

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The court's conclusion about proximate cause was also fatal to Dankos's other claims of breach of a duty. Id. at 425-29.

Case No. 20: Kiriakos

Manal Kiriakos was walking her dogs on the sidewalk one morning when 18-year-old Shetmiyah Robinson, driving a large sport utility vehicle, hit Kiriakos, causing her life-threatening injuries.15

The prior afternoon and evening, Robinson had been working with Brandon Phillips and another man at Phillips's house.16 They began drinking a bottle of vodka and some champagne around 10:00 p.m. Phillips himself mixed the vodka in Robinson's drink with orange juice. Phillips, age 26, knew that Robinson was 18, that Robinson had driven to Phillips's house and would have to drive to leave, and that Robinson had too much to drink. Because of the quantity Robinson consumed,17 Phillips told Robinson to "watch what he's drinking." Phillips also offered to let Robinson sleep at his place, but said that Robinson

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could leave "whenever he was ready" if he "was sure that he was going to be able to drive." Robinson decided to wait for the effects of the alcohol to wear off, and left around 4:00 or 5:00 a.m.

Robinson struck Kiriakos about one hour later. The officer who arrived at the scene detected "a strong odor" of alcohol on Robinson's breath. This officer also noticed that Robinson's eyes were bloodshot and that vomit was on his sweatshirt. Robinson consented to a preliminary breath test, which measured a BAC of .088. Based on the sobriety test, among other things, the officer placed Robinson under arrest.18 At the precinct, Robinson consented to take a breath test, which measured a BAC of .08.

Kiriakos filed an amended complaint against multiple defendants,19 including Phillips. The sole count against Phillips sounded in negligence. Kiriakos alleged that Phillips owed a duty "to the public in general," including her, not to provide alcohol and illegal drugs to someone "under-aged" when he knew or should have known the under-aged person would drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Phillips filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that "Maryland does not recognize social host liability for serving alcohol." After a hearing, the Circuit Court for Baltimore County granted Phillips's

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motion, refusing to find that Phillips owed Kiriakos a legal duty, and explaining that "I'm...

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