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IL injury lawyerMany parents struggle to find the balance between being too strict and too lenient when it comes to parenting their child. Some parents allow their child a few sips of alcohol before they are old enough to drink legally while others prohibit underage drinking entirely. In Illinois, supplying a minor with alcohol is not only a question of morality, but also legality. A parent who supplies alcohol to a minor may be held liable for injuries, deaths, or property damage caused by the minor’s intoxication. This “social host liability law” often applies to damages caused in a drunk driving accident but it may also apply to injuries and deaths involving fireworks, slip and fall accidents, or alcohol poisoning.

Illinois Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act of 2004

On June 15, 1997, a 16-year old was encouraged by two young adults to consume an entire bottle of potent Goldschlager liquor. The teen began vomiting profusely and quickly fell unconscious. She eventually passed away from alcohol poisoning. The teenager’s mother brought a wrongful death claim against the adults who encouraged her to drink but the claim was dismissed by the circuit court of Cook County. As a result, Illinois passed the Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act. Under this act, an individual over 18 years of age who serves alcohol to a minor can be held legally responsible for injuries or property damage caused by the minor’s impairment.

The Illinois Liquor Control Act also includes a section addressing adults who provide minors with alcohol. Under the Liquor Control Act, a person over 21 years old who purchases or rents a hotel room or other commercial property for the purpose of underage drinking may be liable for injuries caused by the underage drinkers’ intoxication.

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Posted on in Premises Liability

Lake County personal injury attorneysAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), More than 4,000 young people pass away every year from complications caused by excessive drinking. It is against the law for people under age 21 to purchase alcohol, but it is estimated that 11 percent of the alcohol consumed in the United States is consumed by underage individuals. Underage drinking can have horrific, life-altering consequences—not only for the drinker but for others as well. Young people who do not know how intoxicated they really are may get into catastrophic car accidents that result in serious injuries and death. For all of these reasons, Illinois passed a measure called the Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act. According to the act, adults who allow underage individuals to drink may be liable for injuries or deaths caused by drunk driving accidents or by the drinking itself.

Death of Young Girl Prompts Illinois Law

The Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act, or “social host liability act” was enacted in 2004 in response to the death of a young Illinois woman. The 16-year-old was at a friend’s house when she was encouraged by her friends and their father to drink an extreme amount of liquor. According to court documents, her friends, who were 18 and 21 years old at the time, offered her money if she could drink an entire bottle of liquor without losing consciousness or vomiting. The teenager drank the bottle and then became unresponsive.

Although the friends and their father were aware of the teenager’s condition, they did not immediately take her to the hospital for medical treatment. She eventually received medical care, but because treatment was so delayed, she passed away from alcohol poisoning.  The mother of the young girl killed by binge drinking brought a wrongful death claim against the family that encouraged her to drink to excess. However, the circuit court of Cook County dismissed the case. As a response, the Illinois state legislature passed the law now referred to as the social host law.

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Lake County personal injury attorneysAs you enjoy your holiday parties this season, it is important to note how seriously Illinois law takes underage drinking. You probably already know that it is against the law for anyone under age 21 to consume alcohol, but you may not know about the laws regarding adults who supply alcohol or drugs to minors. In 2004, Illinois passed the Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act. The Act established a law that holds adults liable for injuries or deaths resulting from underage drinking when the underaged drinking was allowed or encouraged by the adults. It is important for all Illinois residents to be aware of the “social host liability law” and the consequences of allowing a minor to drink alcohol or use drugs.

Wakulich v. Mraz Provoked a Change in Illinois Law

The Illinois law regarding the duty of adults to prevent children from drinking alcoholic beverages was passed in response to a case involving the death of a 16-year-old girl. The young girl was at the home of two brothers, aged 18 and 21, and their father. At the home, the brothers offered the 16-year-old money if she could drink an entire bottle of Goldshlager without vomiting or losing consciousness. The girl consumed the bottle but quickly became unresponsive. Although the young girl was showing obvious signs of alcohol poisoning, the brothers did not seek medical help. The girl was eventually taken to the hospital but the damage to her body was too extensive, and she died due to the extreme binge drinking. 

The girl’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the family who allowed her daughter to drink so excessively, but the case was dismissed by the circuit court of Cook County. The dismissal was upheld both by an appellate court and the Illinois Supreme Court because the law in Illinois at the did not support a finding in the mother’s favor. In response to this case, the Illinois legislature created a cause of action that holds adults liable for supplying minors with alcohol or drugs if the minors are injured or killed as a result.

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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.

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Chicago teen drinking injury liability attorneyEvery year, thousands of American teenagers are hospitalized due to the excessive consumption of alcohol. Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that approximately 119,000 teenagers are treated for alcohol poisoning each year. 

For parents of teenage children, it is crucial to be able to trust other parents in the community. Unfortunately, many parents throughout the United States allow underage drinking within their household. If your child has been injured due to the negligence of an irresponsible adult, it is time to seek out legal representation. 

Underage Drinking Statistics 

While most parents like to believe that their teenage child never consumes alcohol, studies have found that drinking is incredibly common among American teens. The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 30% of high school students admitted to drinking within the past 30 day period. Young people between the ages of 12 and 20 consume approximately 11% of all alcohol sold within the United States on an annual basis. 

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