Most people understand that if they are injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, they can file an injury lawsuit against that negligent driver. However, options for damages may not end there. In some cases, there may be grounds for a “dram shop” lawsuit, which seeks accountability from the person or establishment who served alcohol to the driver.
It won’t apply in every case. For example, North Carolina’s dram shop law, codified in N.C.G.S. 18B-121, only allows for liability when a vendor negligently serves alcohol to a minor who then causes an accident while under the influence of the alcohol served or sold.
South Carolina doesn’t have a dram shop statute, but case law does allow action to be taken against those who serve alcohol either to someone under 21 or to someone the server knew or should have known was already intoxicated.
Most of these claims will be filed against vendors, or actual businesses that served alcohol. However, there are also cases that involve social host liability, in which a private, unlicensed individual can be held liable for injuries caused as a result of serving alcohol to to minors or intoxicated people, either at their residence or at some place within their control.
In the recent case of Kiriakos v. Phillips, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that adults who allow minors to consume alcohol on their property and then allow those minors to leave in a vehicle due have a duty of care to those minors and can be held liable for the injuries that result.
According to court records, 17-year-old reportedly became intoxicated at a house party at the home of his friend’s mother. He reportedly left the party early in the morning with some friends early in the morning. An intoxicated 22-year-old guest was driving while the 17-year-old sat in the back of the pickup truck. Shortly after they left, the 22-year-old crashed the truck and the 17-year-old was killed.
Later evidence showed the adult homeowner had returned home to find the teens in her home, consuming alcohol. At least four times, she entered the garage to observe what was happening. However, she never intervened. Never instructed them to stop. And she never took anyone’s keys.
At one point, the sister of the 17-year-old came to her and asked for help because her brother was highly intoxicated and she didn’t want him to leave. Still, the adult homeowner took no action. She made no effort to stop anyone from leaving.
The teen’s mother later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the woman, alleging common law social host liability, based on a breach of state criminal statutes.
Trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant in the case, finding defendant owed no duty of care to decedent. However, the state’s high court reversed. The court concluded adults who allow underage alcohol consumption on their property may potentially owe a civil duty to those who are injured as a result of underage drinking – including to the individual who drank the alcohol. Further, the court ruled that defendant owed the victim such a duty of care in this case.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Kiriakos v. Phillips, July 5, 2016, Maryland Court of Appeals
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