DON’T DRINK AND BE LIABLE – A CAUTIONARY TALE FOR HOSTS
“Drinking in the United States among minors has reached epidemic levels,” Soules Insurance Agency observed, “with more than 50% of minors drinking alcoholic beverages with some degree of regularity”. While that statement was published back in 2012, the 2021 SuperBowl weekend certainly brought to mind the topic of underage drinking…
What ARE the laws in Indiana about underage drinking?
- According to Indiana Code Title 7.1, it is illegal for those under age 21 to possess or consume alcohol (or transport it when not accompanied by a parent or guardian).
- As a parent, it is against the law to provide alcohol to teens under age 21 under any circumstances, even in your own home, and even with their parents’ permission. Serving alcohol to those over 18 carries a maximum sentence of six months prison time and a fine of $1,000, while serving alcohol to those under 18 could result in a year of jail time and a fine of $5,000, explains CEASe, the Coalition to Eliminate the Abuse of Substances of Scott County, Indiana.
- Indiana has a social host law. How is that different from the underage drinking law? It is a Class B misdemeanor to provide alcohol to a minor, but it is also a Class B misdemeanor to provide a place for a minor to drink (this includes the adult’s home or other property they own, rent or control).
- Minors who are under the influence of alcohol have a greatly enhanced probability of injuring someone or themselves. Remember, underage drinking in your home or on your premises can create a legal liability for you. If a minor hurts himself or herself or someone else after drinking, or if he or she causes property damage or harm, the host can be held liable.
Hints for hosts:
Super Bowl weekend has passed, hopefully without incident for you as the “host-with-the-most”. For
parties to come, keep these guidelines in mind to protect your guests from harm – and protect yourself
from legal troubles in the form of:
- Premises liability: Before the gathering, correct the hazards – loose carpets, broken railings, trailing wires, loose tiles.
- Dram shop laws: Don’t serve alcohol to anyone who is already intoxicated or who is underage.
After the fact:
If, unfortunately, you or one of your children has been injured by an underage driver who was under the influence of alcohol, that’s where Ramey & Hailey might be of help in bringing a social host civil lawsuit.
It is possible that the host’s homeowner’s insurance company will offer you a settlement, but once you’ve accepted a settlement from an insurance company, you’ve given up your right to sue. Remember, as an injured party, you will have become the adversary of that insurance company. With possibly serious medical bills to be paid due to harm caused to your or yours by an intoxicated underage driver, our mission becomes recovery for your losses.