Defense Verdict in Automobile Death Case

May 18th, 2012

A 17-year-old intoxicated motorist was killed in a one-car accident. Blue Williams partner Thomas G. Buck defended the suit filed against the owner of the home where the decedent had been drinking. Decedent’s parents claimed that the homeowner was legally responsible because she had not prevented the minor from consuming alcohol. The facts showed that the homeowner did not provide the alcohol and did not know that the teenagers were drinking at her house. Despite the fact that she had reason to suspect the teens might have been drinking on other occasions, the court held there is no “heightened duty for social hosts to actively search for underage drinking.”

The teens were aware that drinking was not condoned by the defendant, and they took a number of steps to keep this parent, and other parents, from discovering their frequent consumption of alcohol. After a survey of the law from the rest of the United States, the court concluded that while giving alcohol to a minor is actionable, there is no liability for failing to catch the teens doing something they knew they should not be doing in the first place.