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Parents Not Liable For Teen Drinking

Illinois law imposes no liability on "social hosts" for injuries by or to those who drink as guests in their home. However, the courts recognize an exception to this rule, holding hosts liable if they voluntarily undertake to prevent harm to a drunken guest but are negligent in doing so. The Illinois Supreme Court recently issued a decision showing how narrow this exception is.

The case involved a party that a teenager hosted for his friends. The teen had been cited for underage consumption, and his parents warned him there was to be no drinking at his party. Despite having issued this warning, the parents apparently allowed underage guests to drink to excess, sometimes in their presence, doing no more than telling them not to drive.

One guest did not listen and was killed in a car crash. His parents sued, alleging that the homeowners had voluntarily undertaken to ensure that no one would drink and had negligently failed in this undertaking.

The court disagreed, finding the duty created by a voluntary undertaking to be a narrow one. The homeowners' warning to their son not to allow drinking did not obligate them to then stop the drinking they saw. Because they took no affirmative steps to stop the drinking, they had not engaged in an "undertaking" for which they could be liable.

The court's decision limits liability for acts of stupidity. Whether or not this is wise, it is the law.

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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