Adults Responsible For Accidents Caused By Underage Drinkers

Some parents of teenagers let their kids and their friends consume alcohol on their property thinking, “Well, kids are going to drink anyway, so they’re better off doing it here where they’re safer than doing it elsewhere.” But that kind of thinking is a huge mistake. As a recent decision from the Maryland Court of Appeals illustrates, the mistake can be tragic, resulting in significant liability for the homeowner. The ruling arose from two separate cases that ended up being heard together. In the first case, a 26-year-old homeowner served drinks to an 18-year-old. The homeowner supposedly knew the minor was intoxicated and told him he could drive away but not until he felt okay to do so. The driver waited about six hours, leaving in the early morning and striking and killing a pedestrian. He had an elevated blood alcohol count at the time of the accident. The other case involved a woman who came home to find her underage son having a party with his underage friends. Guests apparently told the homeowner that a 22-year-old who was about to drive away was intoxicated, but she did nothing to stop him. A 17-year-old who got drunk at the party was riding in the back of the 22-year-old’s pickup truck. When he wrecked the truck, the 17-year-old died. The court found that the adults in both of the combined cases could be held responsible for the respective deaths. In reaching its conclusion, the court pointed to a state criminal law barring adults from serving alcohol to minors in their home. The panel decided that any adult that breaks this law is responsible for any harm that ensues, as long as allowing the consumption of alcohol contributed to that harm.

About John Fagan

John is a Jacksonville native who grew up on the First Coast. He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1975 and went to college at Florida State University where he completed a 4-year program in 3 years. John graduated from the Florida State University College of Business in 1978 and went straight into Florida State University College of Law. While in law school, John earned a position on the prestigious Law Review Board serving as its Business Editor. As a law student, John studied in the Oxford program. He also interned with the Florida Legislature working in the Florida House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee. John was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1981. John began his legal career as a law school intern in the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville in 1981. After his internship, legendary State Attorney Ed Austin hired John as a full-time Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties). As a prosecutor, John tried jury and non-jury trial on charges ranging from DUI to Murder. In 1983, John moved from the State Attorney's Office to begin his career in private practice. He has practiced law for 30 years on the First Coast. For the last 20 years, John and his family have made Clay County their home. John limits his practice to personal injury and disability cases. While there are many fine attorneys in Clay County, John is one of only a few Clay County attorneys who limit their practice to personal injury and disability cases. John takes pride in helping clients resolve injury claims in ways that avoid the stress, uncertainty, and the expense of unnecessary litigation. Professional Activities John is the past President of the Clay County Bar Association and has served on the Board of the Clay County Bar Association from 2009-2013. He is an active member of the Florida Bar, and the Federal Bar of the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida. He is also a member of the American Association of Justice, the Florida Association of Justice, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, and the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates. Service to the Community John is involved in the Clay County Community serving as a member and Director of the Rotary Club of Orange Park, of the Clay County Bar Association, and the Putnam County Bar Association.
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