In a recent decision, the California Court of Appeal ruled that a homeowner hosting a party is not liable if a party guest is injured by unknown assailants. In Melton v. Boustred, the host used a social networking website to advertise a party involving two staples of such events: music and alcohol. When the three plaintiffs arrived, they were beaten and stabbed by unknown individuals. The plaintiffs sued, alleging that the host should be held liable for their injuries.
The Melton court held that, as a matter of law, the plaintiffs did not have a viable claim. The court ruled that publicizing and hosting a party were not sufficient by themselves to give rise to a duty to protect guests from criminal acts by other guests, even if common sense might dictate that a public internet invitation might lead
to the attendance of some unsavory guests. The Melton court noted that neither common sense nor hindsight are standards for imposing a duty. Further, the court held that there was no special relationship between the host and the guest sufficient to impose on the host a legal duty to protect guests from third party criminal conduct. Absent such a duty, the plaintiffs had no basis to hold the host liable.