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Maryland High Court Recognizes Civil Liability of Adults who Permit
On July 5,
2016, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that an adult who permits underage
drinking can be held civilly liable if the minor thereafter causes injury to a third
party.It has long been illegal for an
adult to supply alcohol to minors; however this is the first time that Maryland
has recognized an associated civil liability.
law prohibits an adult from permitting a person under the age of twenty-one to
consume or possess alcohol at their residence and similarly prohibits an adult
from furnishing alcohol to a person under the age of twenty-one.The recent cases involved two victims, a
passenger who was killed and a pedestrian who was seriously injured by minors
who had been drinking at house parties prior to the incidents.
existing law at the time the case was decided, an adult could not knowingly and
willfully allow an individual under the age of twenty-one years to possess or
consume an alcoholic beverage at a residence that the adult owns or leases and
in which the adult resides.The first
issue that the court decided was whether the statute was designed to protect a
specific class of persons.The court
concluded that the statute was designed to protect persons under the age of
question the court decided was whether the victim’s injury and death were
proximately caused by the adult providing the alcohol.Maryland generally does not recognize social
host liability.That means that where an
adult leaves a party intoxicated and causes injury to some other person, the
injured party does not have a claim against the host of the party.
review of the law’s legislative history as well as a look at how other states
have addressed the issue, the court concluded that liability could attach to
the defendant.In reaching this
conclusion, the court remarked that the defendant observed that the minor was
intoxicated and allowed him to leave without making any attempt to prevent him
from getting in a car and driving.
reasoned that the defendant should have foreseen that the minor was intoxicated
and would not have been able to drive safely.The court also held that the defendant was not entitled to a defense of
contributory negligence on the part of the drunk party-goer because the
defendant committed an intentional tort in allowing the minor to party at her
home.The court drew an important
distinction between allowing a minor to consume alcohol and allowing an adult
to consume alcohol.Ultimately, the
court concluded that limited social-host liability may attach against an
individual provides alcohol to a minor.
With an office conveniently located in Lexington Park, The Law Offices of Baldwin & Briscoe, P.C. serves clients in the counties and cities of Lexington Park, Leonardtown, Hollywood, Mechanicsville, Loveville, Helen, Breton Bay, Chaptico, Charlotte Hall, Golden Beach, Avenue, La Plata, Waldorf, Newburg, Port Tobacco, Port Charles, Solomons Island, Prince Frederick, Chesapeake Shores, Hughesville, Benedict, Nanjemoy, Lusby, Port Republic, St. Mary's County, Charles County, Calvert County, Prince George's County, Southern Maryland.