Two days ago the Syracuse Post Standard reported that the New York State Police had arrested a brother and sister, who are only 22 and 20 years old, for allegedly endangering the welfare of a child in Boonville, New York, by having an underage drinking party at their home on New Year’s Eve where the minor was served alcohol.
Here’s my blog-post question of the day: What if the under-aged drinker had injured someone because of his intoxicated state? For example, what if he had driven away from the party only to smash his car into an oncoming vehicle? Or what if, emboldened by his alcohol-fueled testosterone levels, he assaulted someone and caused serious injury? Who would be liable for those injuries? Can both the 22 year-old and the 20 year-old kids who hosted this party be held liable in a New York under-aged drinking lawsuit?
Yes they can! Obviously, the under-aged drunk driver or assailant would be liable, but so too would the people who held the underage drinking party, even if they themselves are minors. These rules are all found in New York’s General Obligations Law 11-100. Under this law, if someone is injured by an intoxicated minor, the injured victim has a right to bring a New York lawsuit against the person who caused or contributed to the intoxication of the minor by unlawfully selling to, or assisting in the procuring of liquor for, the minor. In order to be held liable, the procurer of the alcohol must have known, or had reasonable cause to believe, that the person he was providing the alcoholic drink to was under the age of 21. Under the law, even an under-aged person who provides alcohol to another under-aged person can be held liable to the victims.
Moral of the story? Never serve alcohol to a minor, even if you yourself are a minor. You can be held liable for any injuries the minor you serve alcohol to causes. Giving alcohol to a minor is like winding up a walking liability-causing machine that you can’t control!