Sunday, February 22, 2009

Settlement in case re social host liability

Some time ago, I posted a comment regarding a case that imposed liability on an establishment with no liquor license for the injuries caused by someone who got drunk there. I argued that at some point the same reasoning would be used in a social host type case. Today I saw a report of another interesting development in this area of the law, although it will not set any kind of legal precedent. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that a Lake Forest (a suburb of Chicago) woman's homeowners insurance will pay $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a plaintiff who was paralyzed in a crash that occurred after an underage drinking party in her home. In this case, some teenage girls invited some friends over to their house (presumably while the parents were away). The girls provided alcohol to their guests. To go home, the plaintiff got a ride from another boy who was drunk. It is not clear from the report whether the plaintiff was drunk too. On the way, the driver lost control of the car and crashed causing the plaintiff's injuries. It is interesting that the parent here did not buy the alcohol for the teens or knew they were drinking in her home. I suppose the insurance policy somehow covers conduct by the children -- otherwise, I am sure the insurance company would have challenged coverage. Also, I wonder if the defendant argued that the plaintiff was negligent himself in deciding to get in the car in the first place -- assuming the driver was visibly intoxicated. The plaintiff also sued the kid who was driving the car. That defendant has not settled and the trial is scheduled to begin in March.


Amy S. said...

Very interesting Lake Forest case. After having taught at LFHS, I regret to say that a lot of these kids run wild. I would argue that parental supervision is lacking and money is abundant. Under these conditions, kids in the suburbs get bored and they start using drugs and alcohol rather stupidly. Did the mother really not know? Should she have known? Was she trying to cover for her kid?

In Deerfield, two kids from Deerfield High School (my alma mater)were killed after consuming alcohol and smoking marijuana at a friend's home Homecoming weekend 2006.

In this case, the parents of the decedents could not file a civil suit against the social hosts because the decedents were 18.

Here are the links:

Professor Alberto Bernabe said...

You are right. Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. Thanks for the links to the stories. Here they are as "hyperlinks": the original story is here; the follow up is here.