Court Hold Adults Who Serve Alcohol to Minors May Be Liable for Related Injuries

A state court of appeals considered two cases in which underage people were consuming alcohol on an adult’s house and then drove, getting into an accident. The adults knew that the underage people were drinking alcohol but allowed the minors to do so. In one case, one of the underage drinkers caused the death of another person after driving drunk, and in the other case, the underage drinker caused another individual serious injuries. The plaintiffs claimed that the adults were negligent in allowing the minors to drink on their watch. The state’s supreme court held that adults who allow underage drinking can be held liable to those who are injured as a result, including the underage drinkers. In addition, the court held that in these two cases, the adults owed a duty to these victims.

Vodka BottleA 17-year-old drank during a party at an adult’s house, and when he left early in the morning, still intoxicated, he was killed when riding in another intoxicated partygoer’s car. In that case, a woman’s underage son had friends over. His mother was home and knew that underage people were drinking, but she did not tell them to limit or stop drinking. She also did not attempt to prevent any guests from driving.

In the other case, an 18-year-old had been drinking with a 26-year-old and another friend at the 26-year-old’s house. The man knew that the 18-year-old was only 18, that he had too much to drink, and that he would have to drive home. The 26-year-old offered him a place to sleep but told him he could leave if he was “sure that he was going to be able to drive.” The 18-year-old left early in the morning, and while driving, he hit a woman walking her dog on a sidewalk, causing her life-threatening injuries.

The court noted that young people are still continuing to develop, and they are not fully able to handle certain risks, including alcohol. The court held that the responsibility of a social host is grounded in negligence and that they have a duty of reasonable care. In order for the state’s statute to apply, the adult had to act knowingly and willfully.

Liability of Social Hosts in Illinois

Illinois has resisted extending liability to social hosts for serving alcohol to other people, including underage drinkers. The state’s courts have based their decisions on several reasons, such as the theory that drinking alcohol is the cause of intoxication, not supplying alcohol. In addition, there could be unlimited liability for social hosts, whereas liability for commercial suppliers is limited by the state’s statute. Courts have reasoned that those who suffer harm as a result of an intoxicated person can sue the intoxicated person directly, rather than resorting to the supplier of alcohol. With that said, these claims are permissible when filed against licensed liquor vendors, such as bars or restaurants. It is only when they are filed against a “social host” that courts will apply the blanket prohibition.

Have You Been Injured by a Drunk Driver?

If you have been involved in a drunk driving accident, our attorneys can help you seek compensation. The Chicago attorneys at Moll Law Group can help victims of car accidents. We serve victims and their families in Naperville, Schaumburg, Wheaton, and communities throughout Cook County. Use our online form or call us at 312-462-1700 to set up a free initial consultation.

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