Underage drinking is not a new problem and neither is the threat of underage
drunk driving crashes. These are problems our region knows all too well
here given (in addition to our own youth population) the number of under-21s
who visit our region for Spring Break. While this has been a concern for
decades, only recently have we begun to look into how these underage drunk
drivers obtained the alcohol. As a Panama City DUI injury law firm, we
believe this step is a critical decision point and we believe in holding
adult responsible for injuries or fatalities caused because they were
furnishing alcohol to minors (note: for the purposes of this post, a minor
is someone under age 21)
The Law in Florida on Furnishing Alcohol to Minors
Section 562.11 makes it a second-degree misdemeanor to sell, serve, give,
or permit others to serve alcohol to someone under 21 while at a beverage
service establishment. While limited in location, this is broad in that
it would seem to apply to another patron who purchases alcohol for a minor.
The law contains a detailed exception shielding the purchaser when the
young person had false identification.
While 562.11 applies to establishments such as bars and restaurants, many
cases of adults furnishing alcohol to minors occur outside of this realm,
including at what Florida law refers to as "open house parties."
At a basic level, these are in-home gatherings where alcohol is served
and the host is the homeowner or otherwise has control over the space,
including a tenant.
On the civil side of the issue is Florida Statutes Section 768.125 and
a topic commonly called "social host liability." The first phrase
of the law provides that someone who sells or provides alcohol to an adult
is not liable for any injury or damage that is a result of the adult's
intoxication. In contrast, the law provides that someone who "willfully
and unlawfully" provides alcohol to a minor may be held liable for
injuries or damages that result from the minor's intoxication (note:
this liability also attaches if the person serves someone s/he knows is
An example can be helpful here. Suppose Sally has a party at her residence
where 25 year old Charlie and 19 year old Linus both consumes alcohol.
If Charlie causes a car accident on his way home because of his intoxication
and seriously injures Lucy (with damages beyond PIP/no-fault coverage),
Sally CANNOT be held liable for Lucy's injuries. However, if Linus
causes a car accident on his way home because of his intoxication and
seriously injures Lucy, Sally CAN be held liable for Lucy's injuries.
Adult Responsibility, Adult Accountability
A key lesson: If you hold a party in your home and allow anyone under age
21 to drink alcohol, you may face both criminal and civil liability. The
laws on providing alcohol to minors are a reminder that being an adult
means being both responsible and accountable.
On the other side of the issue, if you were seriously injured or lost a
loved one in an incident (including a car accident) caused by an intoxicated
person under age 21, you may have a claim against the driver and also,
depending on the circumstances, an adult who supplied the alcohol. This
can be important since a verdict (particularly one that exceeds no-fault
coverage) is only useful if you can collect on it and the adult is more
likely to have insurance and/or assets to pay your claim.
Our DUI injury lawyer in Northwest Florida advocates on behalf of the injured
and the grieving. We investigate all potential avenues to provide financial
compensation. Call to discuss your unique case.
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