Massachusetts Court Says Teens Not Liable Under Social Host Law

February 24, 2012

The highest court in Massachusetts ruled Tuesday that teenagers who host underage drinking parties but do not supply alcohol cannot be held civilly liable if one of their guests gets hurt.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in a case involving a 16-year-old girl who was seriously injured in a 2007 car accident after she left a drinking party at the home of a 19-year-old girl. The girl who was injured was a passenger in a car driven by her boyfriend, who also attended the party and drank alcohol he had bought earlier that night.

The injured girl’s parents sued the 19-year-old party host. The girl’s father was not home at the time of the party.

The court rejected a request to expand the state’s social host liability law by extending a “duty of care” to an underage party host who does not supply the alcohol, but provides a location where teens are permitted to drink.

The court said a social host is liable only when the host serves alcohol or controls the supply of alcohol.

According to a summary of events in the SJC’s ruling, the 16-year-old girl’s then-boyfriend bought a 30-pack of beer and a bottle of rum and brought them to the party. During the evening, he drank one or two mixed drinks and six or seven cans of beer. On the way home from the party, his car struck a utility pole, injuring both him and his girlfriend.

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