Can Maryland Hosts Be Liable for Providing Alcohol to Drunk Drivers?

Drunk driving remains an issue in Maryland, just as it does across the country. Due to the severity of the issue, in some states, social hosts and commercial establishments can be held liable for providing alcohol to guests if another person is injured as a result of a Maryland car accident. A recent decision a state appellate court considered whether a 19-year-old could be held liable after his friends drank at his home.

In that case, the 19-year-old defendant had friends over at his home where they all drank alcohol. His friends were also underage, but adults. Two of his friends, who were 19 years old and 20 years old, left severely intoxicated. The 20-year-old drove and crashed his car, and the 19-year-old passenger died at the scene.

The state’s supreme court considered whether an adult under the age of twenty-one had a duty to stop others from allowing underage guests to consume alcohol in their homes. The court decided that an underage adult may be held liable if 1.) the defendant knowingly permitted and facilitated the consumption of alcohol by allowing others to drink in his home; 2.) the defendant knowingly provided alcohol to a visibly intoxicated underage guest or allowed the guest to drink there; 3.) it was reasonably foreseeable that the driver would leave to operate a motor vehicle, thereby putting others at risk; 4.) the defendant did not take any reasonable steps to prevent the intoxicated guest from getting behind the wheel of the vehicle; and 5.) the guest negligently drove and injured a third party due to his intoxication. In this case, the court decided that the defendant could be held liable.

Dram shop laws refer to laws that impose liability on a seller of alcoholic beverages for personal injury caused by an intoxicated patron. Social host liability similarly imposes liability on hosts who provide alcohol to their guests to the point of intoxication. The Court of Appeals of Maryland first considered whether to adopt dram shop liability in State v. Hatfield in 1951. The court found that because the Maryland legislature declined to adopt a statute imposing such liability, it was clear that the legislature did not intend to do so. Maryland courts have similarly declined to impose liability on a social host absent a special relationship. Maryland courts have declined to do so because they have repeatedly said that the legislature is responsible for public policy decisions. Although injured victims cannot successfully file a claim against a provider of alcohol for resulting injuries, injured victims may still file negligence claims against responsible parties. Claims generally must be filed within three years of the date of the injury.

Contact a Dedicated Personal Injury Lawyer in Maryland or Washington, D.C.

If you have been injured, contact a Maryland personal injury lawyer. At Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers, we have the tenacity and resources to pursue all of the parties responsible for causing your harm or loss. Our Maryland car accident attorneys can guide you through each step of the legal process, from the initial investigation of your case through settlement negotiations and any litigation that becomes necessary. To set up a free consultation, call us toll-free at (800) 654-1949, or you can contact us online.

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