A couple in Raleigh and their son are facing criminal charges, after authorities say an 18-year-old was served alcohol in their home and then drove drunk, leading to a fatal crash.
Investigators would later describe the gathering as a wedding-related celebration. The arrests have struck home for many parents who may have assumed underage alcohol consumption is legally sanctioned in North Carolina in some instances. It is not.
Our Charlotte drunk driving accident attorneys recognize that in a case like this, even though it was a single-car crash and the driver was at-fault, the adults who served him the alcohol leading to his intoxication may be held liable in civil court, as well as convicted in criminal court. The law offers no exceptions for certain types of functions.
Authorities were quoted as saying that while they do occasionally get reports of minors consuming alcohol at weddings, more often, reports are made as the result of private parties in homes where alcohol is being consumed by high school students and parents are present. Parents believe hosting these type of parties presents a safer alternative, assuming teens will drink anyway. The price paid for their misjudgment is steep.
In this case, an 18-year-old was driving his BMW on Hunting Ridge Road when he lost control while traveling nearly 90-miles-per-hour. Witnesses living nearby heard the impact, rushed outside and found the teen was already dead. An autopsy would later reveal the teen was drunk.
Earlier that evening, he had been celebrating a wedding at the $2 million Wake County home of his friend’s parents, a 59-year-old neurologist and his 52-year-old wife. Their son, also 18, was charged with illegally purchasing a bottle of Jack Daniel’s liquor at a nearby store, and then serving that liquor to three other underage drinkers – including the decedent. The clerk at the store was charged with a misdemeanor. Both parents were charged with four misdemeanor counts of aiding and abetting underage drinking.
Still, such criminal charges are relative rare. In 2013, there were 2012 adults arrested in all of North Carolina for aiding underage drinking.
Civil action for these violations can be sought under N.C. Gen. Stat. 18B-120. This law allows victims of underage drunk driving and/or their survivors to seek compensation if an adult or establishment negligently furnishes alcohol to a person who is legally to young to drink it (under the age of 21). The plaintiff in these cases has to show the consumption of the alcoholic beverages that were furnished or sold to the underage person caused or contributed to, in whole or in part, the underage driver to be impaired at the time of the crash. Additionally, it must be proven the injury was proximately caused by the underage driver’s negligent operation of a vehicle while impaired.
Under this statute, the total amount that a person can be awarded is a maximum of $500,000 per occurrence. That means if there are multiple victims, they will have to divide that $500,000. If only one party is suing, he or she could receive up to $500,000. If more than one party is a defendant in this case, they might divide the liability.
As school is now back in session, and we have homecoming games and a host of holidays coming up. This tragic incident serves as an important reminder of why parents and the community must remain vigilant in preventing underage drinking.
Contact the North Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
There are no exceptions that allow underage drinking in NC, Aug. 14, 2014, By Josh Shaffer, Charlotte News & Observer
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