Jeff and Joe were all dressed up for Halloween and stopped in at their friend Marty\’s house for a party. Jeff and Joe were both 18 years old. Marty\’s parents were home and the boys, at their request, were served three or four beers over a one and one half hour period. Then the boys decided to leave and go to another party with Jeff driving the car. Jeff only felt he had a â€œbuzzâ€ but was not drunk. Unfortunately Jeff ran a red light and was hit broadside. Both boys suffered severe injuries. Both boys also had alcohol levels more than twice the legal limit even if they had been over 21 years old.
ISSUE: Who is liable?
ANSWER: Marty\’s parents, who served alcohol to minors, would be liable both civilly and criminally for the injuries to both boys. If the boys were adults, 21 years of age or older, than there would have been no liability on the part of the parents. Joe can also bring an action against Jeff since Jeff was the driver. Jeff\’s attorney will counter that Joe should not have accepted a ride with an individual that may have appeared to be visibly intoxicated and was thus comparatively negligent for his own injuries.
The main lesson though is that parents that serve alcohol will be liable for the results if an accident does occur.
Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.