A Shasta County Superior Court judge has thrown out a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a Redding teenager who died of alcohol poisoning at a friend’s home in December 2008.

Judge Monica Marlow ruled Monday there was no legal basis upon which Steve and Debbie Allen could prevail at trial in their lawsuit against Wallace Liberman, his wife, Debby, and their daughter.

Redding attorney Patrick R. Beasley said Wednesday that he and the Liberman family welcomed Marlow’s ruling.

"It’s been a major relief for everyone," he said, adding that the case has been difficult for all of those involved. "It’s wonderful to have this behind them."

Marlow’s ruling, however, can be appealed to the Third District Appellate Court in Sacramento.

Beasley said the attorney for the Allen family, Mark R. Swartz of Gold River, told Marlow at Monday’s court hearing he would file an appeal.

Swartz was in trial on Wednesday and was unavailable for comment.

Steve Allen said Wednesday he disagreed with Marlow’s ruling and it will be appealed.

"It’s about failure to provide care to a sick person," said Allen. "If it (his daughter’s death) involved anything other than alcohol, the judge wouldn’t have tossed out the lawsuit."

Although a Dec. 5 status conference also has been scheduled concerning the lawsuit, that Superior Court hearing is expected to be canceled once all the final court paperwork has been filed.

Steve and Debbie Allen sued the Liberman family last year, alleging the family was negligent in allowing their daughter to die at their home.

But Marlow, citing case law and describing the events that took place that night and morning, determined otherwise.

Shelby Allen, a 17-year-old Foothill High School junior, died Dec. 20, 2008, after a night drinking with the Libermans’ daughter and another teen at the Libermans’ Old Alturas Road home. Sheriff’s investigators said the teens had been drinking heavily while the Libermans slept upstairs.

"It is an undisputed fact that Wallace and Debby Liberman did not authorize" the drinking by the teens, Marlow wrote in her decision.

But whether they told the girls outright that they were not to drink, or if they simply implied it, is a matter of dispute.

Their daughter is not being identified by the Record Searchlight because she was a minor at the time of Shelby’s death. She had been charged by Shasta County’s prosecutors with involuntary manslaughter, but the case was dismissed in November 2009 by a juvenile court judge.

In the 17-page wrongful death lawsuit filed last year by Steve and Debbie Allen, they claimed Wallace and Debby Liberman were negligent because they maintained an "open bar" at their home on the night in question and failed to check on the welfare of Shelby Allen when she was a guest there.

Had they checked, the lawsuit says, they would have discovered that Shelby was unconscious from drinking 15 shots of vodka and lying on the floor of a bathroom.

They then could have helped the girl and called an ambulance, the lawsuit claims.

But in her decision, Marlow, who cited a state law and other cases, said that "social hosts" who furnish alcoholic beverages to a person may not be legally accountable for damages suffered by that person resulting from the consumption of those beverages.

"It would be anomalous for a social host to be immune from liability when the social host offers alcoholic beverages to guests, but deny such immunity when guests help themselves to the host’s alcoholic beverages," Marlow wrote.

That social host law since has been amended by the California Legislature to say adults who "knowingly" provide alcohol to minors at social gatherings could be held liable if the minors are subsequently injured or killed, but that amendment is not retroactive.

Since the death of her daughter, Debbie Allen has worked to educate children about the dangers of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning and also created Shelby’s Rules, an alcohol poisoning education foundation.

Source: http://www.redding.com/news/2011/jul/13/wrongful-death-lawsuit-tossed/