Drunk Driving Liability

Jeffrey R. Davis

Are you in danger of being arrested if your child throws a “getty”? Picture this:

Your 18 year-old son or daughter is throwing a get-together, or “getty,” at your house. One of the now-drunk friends leaves and causes a major accident on the road, killing a couple. Who is to blame here?

Florida Statute 768.125, otherwise known as the Dram Shop Law, states that if an establishment gives or sells alcohol to a minor or someone who is “habitually addicted” to it, that establishment is to blame. Florida is one of the few states that allows for the victims and intoxicated parties to charge the establishment.

However, these rules only apply to a “vendor,” or someone that is selling alcohol. Meaning that if you were to throw a party at your house or go to a get-together, the host that provides alcohol to someone that is underage or “habitually addicted,” is not responsible. He may be made responsible if the injury is obtained in the house in an “unreasonably dangerous” area.

While a social host may be shielded from liability for serving alcohol to a known alcoholic for injuries caused by his intoxication (Dowell v. Gracewood Fruit Co.,559 So. 2nd217 (Fla.1990) and from third-party injuries caused by serving alcohol to a minor (Kirkland v. Johnson,499 So.2nd 899 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986), Florida Statute 856.015(2), enacted in 1988 should be carefully considered. FS 856.015(2) , “OPEN HOUSE PARTY RULE” states; “No person having control of any residence shall allow an open house party to take place at said residence if any alcoholic beverage or drug is possessed or consumed at said residence by any minor where the person knows that an alcoholic beverage or drug is in the possession of or being consumed by a minor at said residence and where the person fails to take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of the alcoholic beverage or drug” This is a criminal statute . Violation of this statute could impose a civil cause of action against this social host (negligence per se)See Newsome v. Haffner,710 So. 2nd 184 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998).

This law is not crystal clear and is very delicate for all parties involved. It is suggested that if you are any of the parties involved in this type of accident, you should contact a lawyer immediately. The professionals at Jeff Davis Law are prepared to handle this case from any perspective, call us at (305) 377-5777 or fill out our contact form for a prompt response from our team.

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