By: Allan M. Siegel
Maryland’s highest court has held adults who hold underage drinking
parties can now be held civilly liable for the injuries of intoxicated
guests. This would cover injuries such as a drunk driving crash after
a guest leaves an underage drinking party. Before the Court of Appeals
recent decision, adult hosts could protect themselves from liability by
claiming injured victims contributed to their own injury by drinking alcohol.
This is the first time the Court of Appeals has approved liability for
adult hosts for harm caused by intoxicated underage party guests.
The Court of Appeals was careful to note the so-called “social host
liability” only applies where the party host knowing and willfully
serves alcohol to party guests younger than 21 years old. Practically,
what this decision could mean is if you or someone you loved were hurt in a
car accident and the at-fault driver was drunk, underage, and had left a party hosted
by an adult, you could file a claim against not only the at-fault driver,
but also the host of the party.
The new decision will showcase the civil justice system’s power to
change societal behavior for the good. Even lax parents will realize they
could be on the hook for thousands of dollars or more if they host a drinking
party for their kids and their underage friends.
This latest decision arose from two earlier cases: Manal Kiriakos v. Brandon
Phillips and Nancy Dankos, et al. v. Linda Stapf. In the Kiriakos case,
the plaintiff suffered a lacerated kidney and fractured vertebrae when
she was hit by a drunken underage driver who had allegedly been served
vodka shots by someone older than 21. Kiriakos sued the party host for
her injuries. In the Dankos case, the mother sued the host of a party
where her 17-year-old son got drunk and was killed on the drive home.
Both the Kiriakos and Dankos decisions were dismissed at the trial level
because the judges could find no legal support for holding adults legally
responsible for serving alcohol to minors.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our
personal injury attorneys monitor the latest legal developments such as the Kiriakos and
Dankos decision in Maryland. We use decisions like this to drive innovative,
aggressive legal strategies designed to hold wrongdoers accountable. Maryland
now allows injured victims who were hurt by underage drunk drivers to
sue the party hosts where the underage driver go the alcohol. If you or
someone you love was injured by an underage drunk driver in Maryland,
do not hesitate to
contact us today to investigate your legal options.