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My daughter’s high school graduation is coming up in June. We are hosting a party for her classmates and their families. My husband wants to have a “keg” of beer. Do we face any legal issues if the graduates (under 21 years old) drink beer?

 

A:

Yes.  You may face criminal charges and a civil lawsuit.

Supplying alcohol to individuals under 21 years old is against the law in Pennsylvania.  The Pennsylvania Liquor Code, Section 4.493(1) states it is unlawful to "permit any liquor or malt or brewed beverages to be sold, furnished or given, to any person visibly intoxicated, or to any minor."

Therefore, you could face criminal charges for serving alcohol to minors.  Just last month, a PA man was charged with several criminal charges for providing alcohol to minors at a birthday party.  One of the minors got drunk and was lying on the grass, vomiting on himself.  *Source: www.pottsmerc.com (Montco man charged with supplying alcohol at ‘Sweet 16' party)

In addition, Pennsylvania imposes “social host liability” on those who sell or supply alcohol to individuals under 21 years old.  Social host liability also extends to serving alcohol to adults.

Related: What is Social Host Liability?

If the minor becomes intoxicated and hurts himself or another person, you may be responsible for the minor’s injuries, as well as the other person’s injuries.

A common example is the following: One of the graduates drinks the beer, gets in his car and causes a head-on collision.  He is seriously hurt, and the individuals in the other vehicle are also seriously injured and hospitalized.  You, as the host of the party who furnished alcohol to a minor, will be liable civilly for the injuries and damages of the intoxicated minor and the injured individuals in the other car. 

Another common scenario is when the intoxicated minor starts a fight with another guest.  The minor may become aggressive after being intoxicated and start a fight with another guest for no reason.  The intoxicated minor punches the other guest in the nose and breaks his nose.  As a result, the guest needs nose surgery.  You may be responsible for that guest’s medical expenses associated with the medical treatment he needs and the pain and suffering he endured as a result of the fight.

Even though parents know that underage drinking is illegal, they may decide to have a party and serve alcohol to minors because they think they can manage the minors better in their home.  Parents may think that their children are going to drink anyway at another party; therefore, they would rather have their children drink illegally under their roof.  However, this is a mistake.  It is against the law.  Further, parents can’t control every guest at the party and be next to each guest all of the time.

Bottom line, keep graduates away from the beer.  If you would like more information, feel free to give me a call at 877.944.8396.


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