Appellate Court Extends Liability in Car Accident Case to Adult Who Knowingly Allowed Minors to Consume Alcohol on Her Watch

Earlier this month, a Maryland appellate court issued a landmark decision involving how far liability can extend in a case in which an adult knowingly allows a minor to consume alcohol, which later contributes to a fatal accident. In the case of Kiriakos v. Phillips, the court held that any adult who knowingly allows minors to consume alcohol may be held liable in a negligence action for any injuries sustained related to the minor’s consumption of alcohol.

The Facts of the Case

Kiriakos v. Phillips was actually two cases consolidated on appeal because they presented very similar issues. The companion case, Dankos v. Stapf, illuminates the issue presented to the court in a simple manner. Dankos was at a friend’s house drinking. When Stapf, the friend’s mother, came home, she asked some friends to leave but allowed a number of them to stay. Several of the friends who were permitted to stay were underage. The teens were drinking in the garage while Stapf was in the kitchen. The evidence presented at trial indicated that Stapf knew they were drinking, went to check on them several times, and even declined to do anything after her daughter expressed concern that several of the teens might be driving in their intoxicated condition.

On the next morning, while still intoxicated from the night before, Dankos and a friend left the Stapf house and were tragically involved in an accident. Dankos was killed in the accident, and his parents filed a negligence lawsuit against Stapf, arguing that her negligence contributed to their son’s death.

Maryland, like Virginia, does not have a Dram Shop law, which can act to hold a party who served an intoxicated individual responsible for the injuries sustained by the drunk driver. However, the court conducted a traditional negligence analysis and determined that under these facts, there is a duty on the part of an adult who knows that minors are consuming alcohol. Since the court found a duty, this enables the lower court to continue with the negligence analysis. If the court determines that the duty was breached and that the breach of the duty was responsible for the harms caused, Stapf may ultimately be held financially liable. However, since this case was only an appeal of a grant of summary judgment, the case will still need to be resolved at the trial court level.

Have You Been Injured by a Drunk Driver?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Even though there is no Dram Shop law in Virginia, the type of analysis the court conducted in the above case may be instructive to Virginia courts. The skilled attorneys at The Schupak Law Firm have the experience and skill necessary to argue these difficult cases, and we have a track record to prove it. Call 703-491-7070 to set up a free consultation today.

See More Blog Posts:

Court Declines to Extend Government Liability in Fatal Motorcycle Accident Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, July 13, 2016.

State Supreme Court Orders New Trial in Slip and Fall Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, June 29, 2016.

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