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Court Denies Civil Liability for Mother Who Allowed Underage Drinking

Maryland courts traditionally have not held bars and other alcohol purveyors responsible for the drunken misconduct of those they have served. A family recently tested this standard to see if it also applied when the alcohol dispensation violated the law because the intoxicated individual was a minor. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled that even though a mother knowingly bought alcohol for her son and his teenaged friends, she could not be held civilly liable when one of the teens was killed while riding in a car with another.

In Davis v. Stapf, the court held that the proximate cause of the accident was the driver’s intoxication, not the mother’s purchase of the alcohol despite the fact that the purchase broke the law. Likewise, her willingness to let her son and his friends use her home to drink did not convince the court that she should bear civil responsibility. The court pointed out that bars and business establishments are not held liable in situations like these, and it would be illogical to hold social hosts to a higher standard.

Though recovery was not available against the mother who hosted the party, the elements of a wrongful death action certainly exist against the truck driver involved in the accident. He owed a duty of care to his passenger and violated that duty by having a blood alcohol content of .21, more than two and one-half times higher than the legal limit.

If you believe a family member lost his life to the negligence or recklessness of someone else, the wrongful death attorneys at Mudd, Mudd & Fitzgerald, P.A. in La Plata can answer your questions and explain the relevant law.

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