The Maryland Court of Appeals recently handed down a ruling that holds adults who serve underage drinkers alcohol may be held civilly liable for any harm caused as a result. That decision comes following several tragic cases of high school kids causing serious injury and death after getting behind the wheel while drunk.
Social host liability is now in effect in Maryland. This means party hosts can be held responsible for negligently serving alcohol to underage guests if they knowingly and willingly do so.
The ruling is a long time in the making and two cases will now be sent back to lower courts in Howard and Baltimore Counties for personal injury lawsuits to proceed. One cases involves a plaintiff who survived being hit by an intoxicated 18-year old in a pickup truck, the other a tragic death of high school student killed while riding in the back of a pickup truck operated by a drunk driver.
Just weeks before the ruling, Maryland toughened its laws on parents and adults serving alcohol to minors at house. People can now serve jail time and expect heavy fines if they served alcohol to minors they knew or should have known would drive drunk and end up causing serious bodily harm or death.
Alex and Calvin’s Law, as it is known, is named for a pair of boys killed in Montgomery County after leaving a house party. The parent hosting the party was only fined $2,500 for each offense, the maximum allowed under law at the time.
Maryland joins 26 other states with similar laws holding parents criminally and/or civilly responsible for the repercussions of serving alcohol to underage drinkers who get behind the wheel of their car and hurt someone. Maryland also recently passed Noah’s Law to expand installation of ignition locks in vehicles used by convicted drunk drivers.
While Maryland is making strides to keep our streets safe from drunk drivers by holding them and their enablers accountable, the state still lacks any dram shop laws. In 2013, Maryland’s highest court ruled bar owners and operators cannot be held civilly liable for harm caused by drunk patrons.
Across the country, 30 states have dram shop laws allowing victims to hold bars and restaurants responsible but 22 impose liability limits. Until Maryland passes its own dram shop laws holding bar owners accountable for over serving patrons, many more needless fatalities are bound to occur.
If you or a loved one were hurt by a drunk driver, the experienced Maryland car accident lawyers of The Cochran Firm, D.C. can help you get the compensation you deserve. Our attorneys can examine your case and determine all the liable parties including the driver, insurance company, or adults who serve underage drinkers at parties.
Contact our office for a free consultation about your case. You can call our office directly during business hours at 202-682-5800 or at 1-800-THE FIRM (843-3476) to reach us 24 hours a day. Strict time deadlines apply to filing personal injury lawsuits so please contact us at your earliest convenience.