Legal Edge: What happens if a minor gets in a crash after drinking alcohol at a party?


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The 4th of July holiday is coming up, and many people will be having BBQs and parties.

But, there are certain legal responsibilities for the host — particularly when it comes to serving alcohol.

For this week’s Legal Edge, WLNS’ Chivon Kloepfer asked attorney Bryan Waldman if a host could be liable for a crash if one of their underage guests left their party drunk and caused a crash.

“In some cases, they can. That’s called social host liability. And in Michigan, the laws regarding social host liability, really focus on making sure that people don’t serve alcohol to minors or serve alcohol to people under the age of 21,” said Waldman.

Waldman said that a statute in Michigan says it’s a crime to serve alcohol to Someone under the age of 21, making the act a misdemeanor.

If the service of alcohol ends up resulting in the death of the minor, it’s a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. There also can be civil charges.

So how would similar liability play out in a situation like this then who could sue or bring a claim?

“That person who’s injured has the right to sue the social host or bring a claim against the social host for serving the minor. But also the minor, if they’re injured in the crash could also bring a lawsuit or a claim against the social host for violating the law and causing them, even though the minors under 21, they’re still old enough to know kind of what’s right and wrong and should have some personal responsibility for what happened though,” said Waldman.

“If they’re old enough to drive, they should be old enough to know they’re not supposed to consume alcohol and get in the car beyond that, even though the minor has a club claim against the social host, the law has something called comparative negligence, where you look at the relative fault of the different people involved in a lawsuit.”

Bryan says the lesson here is, if you are hosting a party and alcohol is going to be served, you need to be very careful to do it in a responsible way.

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