Maryland Court of Appeals Finds Social-Host Liability in Alcohol-Related Accidents Involving Minors

As this blog has previously noted, Maryland does not have a Dram Shop Act that victims of drunk driving accident victims can use to hold the party who served the drunk driver responsible. However, according to a very recent case from the Maryland Court of Appeals, Maryland law now imposes a duty on adults who knowingly or willingly serve alcohol to minors.

Bottles of WhiskeyKiriakos v. Phillips

In the case of Kiriakos v. Phillips, the court consolidated two different cases that presented a similar issue. Thus, in addition to the case brought by Kiriakos, there was also a case titled Dankos v. Stapf. Courts rarely do this but will from time to time when a nearly identical issue is presented by two separate cases.

While both cases presented similar issues, the Dankos case presents the issue more clearly. Steven Dankos, a 17-year-old, was killed in a traffic accident after he and some friends were partying at the defendant’s home. The defendant was an adult woman who allowed the defendant and his friends to consume alcohol at her home. Specifically, Dankos and company were in the defendant’s garage. The evidence presented at trial showed that the defendant would check in on the under-age children occasionally, but she never once told them to stop drinking. Furthermore, she never told them to refrain from driving after they had consumed too much to drink.

On the morning after the party, Dankos and another man left the defendant’s home while still under the influence of alcohol. Dankos rode in the rear of a pick-up truck. The driver of that truck got into an accident, and Dankos was killed as a result. Dankos’ mother then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, arguing that she should be held liable because she knowingly allowed young adults to consume the alcohol that ultimately led to the accident causing her son’s death.

The lower courts wrestled with the issue. On one hand, it seems only fair that an adult who knowingly allows children to consume alcohol on their watch should be held liable for the injuries that result from that choice. However, according to Maryland law as it was at the time, the issue had already been decided, and there was no duty imposed on adult social hosts in these situations.

The court determined that, under the laws of negligence in the State of Maryland, there is now a duty on the part of adults to not allow under-age children to consume alcohol on their watch. Thus, if an adult allows a minor to consume alcohol, and then an accident is caused by the minor’s intoxication, the adult can be held liable.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Drunk Driving Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland drunk driving accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the facts of your accident and injuries, there may be more than one party who can be held responsible for your injuries, and it is important that you name these parties from the outset of the case. For more information on Maryland drunk driving accidents, including those involving minors, call 410-654-3600 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney.

More Blog Posts:

Aggravation of Pre-Existing Injuries in Maryland Car Accidents, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published June 16, 2016.

Court Permits Accident Victim’s Case against Church Alleging Dangerous Placement of Parking Lot, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published July 13, 2016.

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