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Can a Social Host Be Held Liable for Serving Alcohol to a Minor in Illinois?

Posted on in Car Accidents

Lake County personal injury attorneysFor more than a century, the law in Illinois was such that a person who provided alcohol to a guest could not be held legally responsible for any damage caused by the guest’s intoxication, such as a car accident or assaulting someone in a drunken stupor causing serious injury. It did not matter whether the guest was an adult or minor. Neither did the circumstances matter under which the alcohol was served.

Social Host Liability in Illinois

However, after more than one century of resisting, Illinois relented to pressure and adopted social host liability laws. Social host liability mandates that anyone who gives alcohol to others must exercise care to avoid allowing any of their guests to become drunk. 

In the past, a homeowner in Illinois could not be held for the actions of any of their guests who became intoxicated and caused harm to people or damage to property. The rationale behind this was that it was the person who drank the alcohol that was responsible for their actions, not the homeowner or host.

The Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act

All this changed in 2004 when the Illinois legislature changed the law such that now any adult who provides alcohol or any intoxicating substance to a minor is liable for any damages caused by the intoxication of the minor. Under this law, if a parent serves alcohol to their teenage child and friends and one of the friends leaves the home intoxicated, gets in his or her car and drives away and is in a one-car accident in which he or she is killed, the family of the deceased friend will have a wrongful death case against the parent for providing alcohol to a minor.

This law is intended to combat underage drinking, which is a serious problem across the country. The social host liability law covers a wide range of injuries, not just to minors but to anyone hurt in a related accident, including those involving:

What is Serving Alcohol to a Minor?

A question arises as to what is exactly meant by “serving alcohol” to a minor? The language used in the statute is “supplying alcohol,” to a minor, which the legislature seemed to address in the wording of the statute. In a residential setting, the law says a social host must “willfully supply to the minors. The language suggests a parent should not be held liable in a case where their teenage child or children sneak alcohol from the liquor cabinet. The same is not true for non-residential setting, as in that case, the adult can be held liable for simply “permitting” the consumption of alcohol on the premises.

A Lake County Injury Lawyer Can Help

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident caused by a person who was overserved, contact a Waukegan personal injury lawyer to explore your available options. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your personal injury case by calling 847-662-3303 to set up an appointment at one of our convenient offices in Wheaton, Waukegan, Chicago, and Richmond. At Salvi & Maher, L.L.C., we collect our fees only when you collect compensation.




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