It may be tough to believe it by looking out the window, but spring is almost here. If you have teenagers in your home, especially high school seniors, this will be a time of celebrating with proms and graduations on the horizon. And as you prepare for these parties, the subject of serving alcohol to minors will come up. Today, we're going to look at the social host liability laws in Minnesota and how minor consumption in your house or at a party you host can have very serious consequences.
We've all heard cases of social liability in other states. The Maryland bar that was sued for serving an individual whose subsequent reckless driving resulted in the death of a 10-year-old girl grabbed media headlines. And many cases have been brought against homeowners who allowed intoxicated friends or family to leave their home and later caused an accident. But what are the social liability laws in Minnesota?
In Minnesota, as is the case in many states, age is important when determining liability. Minnesota social host liability law is covered under the Social Host Liability Act of 2000 (Minn. Stat. section 340A.90). According to statute, the host has no liability unless he or she has allowed minors to consume alcohol on the property and an accident was caused by an intoxicated minor who was a guest at the host's event.
The statute states that should a situation arise where someone is injured or even killed because of a minor who had been served alcohol, victims and their families have a course for legal action against hosts, over the age of 21, who:
1. had control over the premises and, being in a reasonable position to prevent the consumption of alcoholic beverages by that person, knowingly and recklessly permitted that consumption and the consumption caused the intoxication of that person; or
2. sold, bartered, furnished or gave to, or purchased for a person under the age of 21 years alcoholic beverages that caused the intoxication of that person.
This means that if a person is injured or killed by an intoxicated minor, the victim or their family has the right to claim damages against the individual who provided the minor with alcohol.
It is also important to note that Statute does not require that the host specifically serve or provide the alcohol to the minors. Hosts deemed in control of the premises and those who permit the consumption of alcohol by minors on their premises are all legally accountable.
In addition to the state statute, many cities and counties are strengthening the social host liability laws in their jurisdiction by making it illegal to provide a location where minors can gather and consume alcohol. This would include homes, cabins and other party locations. The goal, of course, is to further persuade parents, guardians and older siblings against providing alcohol or a location to support underage drinking.
If you or someone you know is facing charges involving social host liability, you need experienced legal counsel. Contact Attorney Eric J. Olson for vigorous defense and unrivaled results.