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Host of Party Charged as a Result of DWI


A father organized a graduation party for his 18 year old son who graduated from high school. He decided to hold the party on June 16, 1983 at a club and he agreed to have an open bar where beer will be served to the guests from a keg with a tap. The father agreed to be charged for each keg of beer consumed. Food will also be served at the party and the father will be charged per plate served. The father decided that the party should start from 12 noon until 6:00 p.m. as an open house for his son’s adult relatives; but the party beginning at 6:30 will be for his son’s friends at school.

A New York DWI Lawyer commented that the party was such fun, beer flowed abundantly. At around 6:30 p.m. a classmate of the party host’s son who was around 19 years old arrived and had two beers. He stayed at the party until midnight drinking freely but not eating anything at all. The beer was available on a self-serve basis. When the club closed at midnight, the classmate gave some of his friends and school mates a ride at the back of his pick-up truck. Half an hour after leaving the party, the pick-up truck skidded off the road and turned over. A friend of his who was sitting in the back of the pick-up truck with his girlfriend died as a result of the accident.

The classmate pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and to driving while intoxicated. A New York DWI Lawyer said t parent of the high school graduate who hosted the party also pleaded guilty to the charge of unlawfully dealing with a child (by giving alcohol to a minor.)

The parents of the dead minor sued the classmate who drove while intoxicated but they also sued the parent who hosted the party and the club where the party was held. The parents of the dead boy claim that the drunk student and the student who died were both minors, both were under 19 years of age at the time of the accident and the parent who hosted the party and the club owner were both liable under the Dram Shop Act.

The parent who hosted the party and the club owner both filed motions for summary judgment asking for the dismissal of the complaint against them.

The Supreme Court opined that the actionable wrong is the drinking of the alcohol and not the furnishing of the alcohol since it was the drinking of the alcohol that was the immediate cause of the injury.

But in this case, a Nassau County DWI Lawyer said there is a law that prohibits selling or giving liquor or any alcoholic beverage to a child who is less than nineteen years old. Evidence was produced that both the parent who hosted the party and the club owner knowingly served and gave away alcohol to high school students whom they knew to be under 19 years of age.

The penal statute renders liable any person who sells or gives any alcoholic beverages to minors under 19. And there has been numerous cases decided that the person who sells or gives alcohol to a minor may be liable for the injuries sustained by the minor who received and imbibed the alcohol sold or given to him. The law was designed to protect minors from the injurious effects of imbibing the alcohol. But then, the injurious effects are not limited to the minor who imbibed the alcohol but also to others who may be injured when the intoxicated minor drives.

In a long line of cases, the Supreme Court has consistently held that party hosts are not liable for injuries resulting from the acts of able-bodied persons who drink at a party. But then, the Supreme Court reasoned that minors are not able-bodied. They are children whose bodies are immature and whose judgment may be more readily impaired by alcohol.

The parent who hosted the party and the owner of the club who kept on bringing out full kegs of beer for the high school students whom they knew to be under the age of 19 acted in total disregard for the law. Since they were acting contrary to law, they could be found to be acting negligently. This is an issue of fact that must be tried.

It is for this reason that the motion for summary judgment was correctly denied by the lower court. The Court upheld the denial of the motion for summary judgment.

You may be thinking of hosting a party or open house for your kids and their friends. You may be held criminally liable for giving alcohol to minors and you may also be found civilly liable for damages for it if any of the high school kids gets injured or causes injury to others if any of them drive while intoxicated. Do your best to shield yourself: get a lawyer who knows the defenses to present in your behalf. At Stephen Bilkis and Associates, our legal team is ready to assist you.

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