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Social host liability – How good intentions go horribly wrong

You’re the parent of a Massachusetts high school student and have done a tremendous job so far of encouraging your child to always be honest and always ask you questions, even the ones that make you uncomfortable. One day, you get a question you never truly expected to get: “Mom, dad, I want to invite over a few friends. They were going to drink, so I thought it would be safer for us to do it here. Is that okay?”  You know that your child is a good kid, and you know that teenagers will probably find a place to drink anyways, so you agree. After all, you’ll supervise the party and make sure that nothing goes wrong, right? By 2:00 a.m., the party has died down and mostly all of the teens are asleep. You feel like the coolest parent on the block and you finally allow yourself to go to bed.

In the morning you are jolted awake by a call from the police. One of your child’s intoxicated friends snuck out shortly after you dozed off and got into a severe car accident with another motorist. The child survived but the other driver was injured. Not only was your decision to host an underage drinking party illegal, you are also now completely liable for both the injured teenager and any action taken by the driver’s family.

Providing alcohol or a place to drink for anyone under 21 is illegal

Massachusetts has strong laws on the books about “furnishing” alcohol to any individual under the age of 21. To furnish means to knowingly and intentionally supply, give, or allow the possession of alcohol to those under 21. If found guilty perpetrators can face up to a $2,000 fine and up to a year in prison, not to mention the thousands, or potentially millions, of dollars in civil suits that could follow.  Adults will be liable for any individual who gets drunk on their property – even if it’s a rented hotel room – and proceeds to cause damage or harm to any property or other individual. Homeowners insurance likely won’t cover these costs, especially if the intoxicated, underage individual causes damage or harm after getting behind the wheel of a car.

While parents might think that they are being cool and responsible by keeping a close eye on the activity, underage drinking is still underage drinking. The better approach is to always talk with your child about the dangers of underage drinking and what the consequences of such actions could be. While you can’t control every action your child makes, you can always control what goes on in your own home.

If your child attended a drinking party with adults present…

If your child went to a party, hosted by adults, and proceeded to get drunk, those parents are liable for anything that may happen afterwards. Whether your child was harmed by overconsumption of alcohol, is injured in a fight with another intoxicated person, or gets into a car accident after leaving, you have a strong case against the parents who allowed the action to happen.  Similarly, if you were not involved in the partying whatsoever, but were simply driving home and are injured by an underage, drunk driver coming from one of these types of parties, those same adult hosts are responsible and can be sued in a third-party social host liability case.

At Altman & Altman LLP, we have decades of experience litigating every different type of case imaginable. We take on every case with vigor and keen attention, and do not relent until we have succeeded in getting you the compensation you are entitled to when somebody else’s negligence causes personal trauma or loss.

Call one of our experienced legal professional for a free consultation today at 617-492-3000 or toll-free at 800-481-6199.  We are available 24/7 and we don’t get paid unless you are successful.