Liquor Liability for Allowing Minors to Drink Alcohol

The holiday season is upon us, and the parties will soon begin.  If you are planning to have guests under the age of 21 to your home for the holiday season, it is important to be aware of the possible consequences if you allow minors to consume alcohol.

Over the years, I have occasionally heard a parent say something like this: “teenagers are going to drink, so I’m going to allow my kids to drink in my home so they won’t do it somewhere else.” As an experienced injury lawyer Memphis, TN routinely trusts, I get very nervous when I hear this, and I would caution you against allowing minors to drink in your home. Consider the following scenario:

Jake, age 17, asks his parents if he can have a holiday get-together at home with a few friends. His parents agree. Further, the parents allow the teenagers to “drink a little,” but they tell the teenagers that no one will is allowed to drive. Jake’s girlfriend, Anna, age 16, comes to the get-together and has a few drinks. Jake’s parents were in the home, but they were watching television and tending to their own affairs.  Anna leaves to drive herself home, telling Jake that “it isn’t very far” and she is “fine to drive.”  Jake doesn’t want to alert his parents.  On the way home, Anna is involved in a car crash and seriously injures the other driver.

So, what’s the law on parents who allow minors to drink in their homes? In most states, if you host a party and serve alcohol, you’re not going to be liable if your guests become intoxicated and injure someone on the way home.   Liquor Liability statutes are designed to apply mainly to bars, restaurants, and liquor stores, so there’s a distinction between selling alcohol and otherwise providing it. However, as usual, there are exceptions, meaning that even if you don’t sell alcohol, you can still become liable under certain circumstances. If you have a party at your home and serve alcohol to a minor who becomes intoxicated, you could be held liable if that minor causes injury or damage to a third person.  You could even be liable if you don’t provide the alcohol, but you know the minors are drinking it. This is because, in some cases, the law considers an adult host to be in a “special relationship” with a minor guest, such that the adult host owes a duty to ensure the safety of the minor guest, as well as to keep the minor from driving while intoxicated.

It is important to contact an injury lawyer if you have a possible Liquor Liability case.  While underage drinking is certainly illegal, civil liability implications are fact-intensive and liability varies from case to case.  


Thanks to our friends and contributors at Wiseman Bray PLLC who have significant experience fighting for injury victims in Tennessee.