If you have teenagers, or will soon, don’t ever assume …
… they’ll never invite friends over when you’re away. Or that their friends will never bring alcohol into your home. Teens thrive on friendships and weekend parties, but long gone are the days when teens planned those parties during the preceding week.
“Today with instant messaging and other social media, dozens or even hundreds of teens will know within minutes about a party that’s about to start or is already in progress,” said Lt. Duane Streator of the Avon Lake, Ohio Police Department. When those parties include alcohol consumption, there’s increased danger of falls, fights, vandalism, auto accidents, or other forms of property damage.
With warmer days on the horizon, so comes prom season, graduations and other party occasions. Discuss the risks and consequences of underage drinking – inside and outside of your home – with your teens well ahead of time to avoid the dangers of these situations.
Laws and lawsuits
Most states now have “social host” laws that make parents responsible if they permit underage persons to consume alcohol inside their home or on their property. In Ohio, parents who knowingly allow anyone under 21 to consume alcohol on their property face up to six months in jail and/or a $1000 fine.
Parents also can be sued—and sued big—if property damage, auto accidents, injuries, or death can be traced back to teen drinking on their property. “The potential for a civil lawsuit is great,” warned Lt. Streator, “because it takes a lot less evidence in a civil case to find parents liable. Plaintiff’s attorneys are permitted to investigate details about the parent’s lifestyle, social habits, and discipline regarding their teens.”
“To build their case for a lawsuit, the lawyers might ask around town if the defendant’s home is known as ‘a good place for kids to party’ or if the defendants are away from home frequently,” Lt. Streator noted.
If you are sued, a jury could decide whether you are liable and how much you will have to pay for injuries caused by, or to, your guests. Judgments in social host cases are often measured in millions of dollars.
Civil lawsuits can take years to conclude and put a tremendous amount of strain on you and your family. Litigation is very expensive, and your homeowner’s insurance may not cover the cost. Or, the limits of the policy may be too small to cover the legal fees and damages awarded to the plaintiff.
Parents of teens are urged to:
– Be at home, and visible, when your teen has a party.
– Refuse to supply alcohol to anyone under 21.
– Ask guests for identification if you believe they are under 21.
– Advise other parents that you do not want alcohol provided to your child.
Lt. Streator urged parents to become familiar with a national public awareness program called “Parents Who Host Lose The Most” which is now promoted through many schools and government agencies.
Contact me to discuss this topic further.