Bring Your Own Booze Party Hosts Not Liable for Underage Drunk Drivers

This case will likely create a storm of controversy. Holding booze parties for underage kids is contentious in the first place.

This case is pretty controversial, largely for the reason that a Massachusetts court has decided that people who play host for bring your own booze partiers are not liable if underage drinkers get drunk and drive and cause a drunk driving accident. To many that is unconscionable not to make the hosts responsible to watch their guests’ consumption while on their property. Someone needs to step up and be responsible if the kids are not being smart enough. That’s what adults are for.

The Massachusetts high court handed down a ruling that said social hosts cannot be expected to be the booze police if they are not supplying the alcohol for the gathering. However, should they hold a party or get together and supply the liquor they can be held liable for damages caused by drunk guests. Many parents find this ruling an abomination, wondering whatever happened to the concept of social responsibility.

Underage drinkers should not be drinking in the first place, and if they are bringing alcohol to a party that would be considered to be illegal, not to mention the issue of how they obtained it in the first place and how it is acceptable for someone to host a party where there is illegal drinking going on. The world is a strange place, and it’s not made any better by a court suggesting parents may abdicate their moral ethics, parental responsibility, and allow underage drinking on their premises.

The court indicated a social host may be liable for injuries to third parties caused by a drunk guest only in situations where they served alcohol or made it available. In other words, they would only be liable if they have effective control over the booze. Just because an underage drinker brings alcohol to a party does not mean the social hosts should just leave things be and let them get drunk right under their noses. While there may be prior court cases like this, the decision just does not sit right.

What started this lawsuit was an injury accident that happened when two partygoers left the hosts’ home. The male and his 16-year-old girlfriend slammed into a utility pole, resulting in serious injuries for the female. The 18-year-old host was the named defendant. The male driver supplied all the booze at the party and consumed two mixed drinks and up to seven beers. He had hauled in a 30-pack of beer and a bottle of rum, and it is doubtful he would have expected to drink the whole cache.

The lawsuit suggested the host should be considered negligent for letting the male drink on her property. The court said no, the host is not responsible for their guests’ consumption when they do not control the supply of booze. That clearly begs the question that if the male brought all the alcohol to the party, then why couldn’t the host control the supply of booze? It was on her property for others, including the host, to drink. Who’s to say the male did not pick the booze up for the host?

On the whole, this case has too many holes in it to make good social sense. It is plain as day that drinking and driving, especially by underage individuals, is a serious problem and society has a duty to limit or prevent this happening in any way they can. A hands off attitude just does not cut it.

Robert W. Lee is an Austin personal injury lawyer for Lee, Gober & Reyna. If you need an Austin personal injury lawyer, contact an Austin auto accident injury attorney from Lee, Gober & Reyna.