Illinois Supreme Court Case Does Not Make Hosts Responsible for Underage Drinking at Their Home


Illinois Supreme Court Case Does Not Make Hosts Responsible for Underage Drinking at Their Home

In each state, the highest court in the land makes decisions that in turn become law for that state – just like the state legislature, just like the Governor and his branch.  Recently, the Illinois Supreme Court made some law that impacts everyone in Illinois – at least anyone who ever acts as a “social host” at their home or lets their kids goes to visit someone else’s house.

The case is Bell v. Hutsell.  You can read it online here.

In the case itself a young man (18 years old) named Daniel Bell went over to his friend’s house for a party.  Daniel drank at the party and then Daniel left the party in a car and was tragically killed in a car crash.

Daniel Bell’s mother sued, based on that automobile accident, under the Illinois wrongful death statutes, and that lawsuit made its way up from the trial court through the lower leel appellate court to the highest court in the state, the Illinois Supreme Court.

There, the question boiled down to whether or not under Illinois law, Janet Bell as the grieving mother of Daniel Bell could be awarded damages from the parents of Daniel’s friend who hosted the party at their house where Daniel went and drank the alcoholic beverages that ultimately resulted in his death.

After all, the parents knew there were minors at the party; they knew that alcohol was present; and they knew that the minors were drinking it.  The parents where the house party was taking place didn’t do anything to stop the underage drinking.

Legally, the question became whether or not the parents who had the party in their home where minors were drinking could be held liable for a minor guest’s death under the theory of social host liability.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the parents of Daniel Bell’s friend did not have a legal duty to prevent underage drinking on their property under Illinois law.  This meant that the Bell’s wrongful death action lost one of it’s elements — duty under the law — and now, they’ve lost their son and their wrongful death lawsuit has been dismissed.

Remember this, when your teenagers leave to go to a party.  Those parents aren’t going to be responsible under Illinois Law to supervise any underage drinking there.

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