The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that an auto insurer that paid an underinsured motorist claim after a policyholder was hit by a drunk driver cannot seek contribution from the social hosts who allegedly served the drinks that rendered the driver intoxicated. Nationwide Property & Casualty Insurance Co. v. Smith, 808 S.E.2d 172 (N.C. Ct. App. 2017).
A pedestrian was struck by a car operated by an intoxicated driver. The driver’s auto liability carrier offered the full limit of its coverage. The victim also negotiated a settlement with his UIM carrier, which then sought contribution from the social hosts who provided alcohol to the intoxicated driver. The trial court judge granted the social hosts’ motion to dismiss based on the failure to state a claim. The insurer appealed, but the court of appeals unanimously affirmed, reasoning that a claim for contribution is only available among joint tortfeasors. The court concluded that because neither the victim nor the UIM insurer were tortfeasors, the UIM insurer could not assert a claim for contribution against any tortfeasor.