Parties are often used to mark joyous occasions. Graduations, promotions, weddings, anniversaries, the big game, or just the reunion of friends and family are all times when people come together to celebrate life. Hosting a party is an exciting honor as you are able to facilitate the celebration and provide friends and family with a happy time. At the same time, however, planning a party is extremely stressful. The host is responsible for the music, the food, the decorations, and drinks. The host needs to make sure people can find the party and make sure people can mingle with everyone. By the end of the party, the honor and excitement have turned to exhaustion, but at least the stress is over… or is it?
In Florida, it is a criminal offense to allow minors to use or possess alcohol or drugs. Appropriately coined as the “Open House Parties” law,1 a person having the authority to regulate, direct, or dominate a residence is liable if:
- A social gathering is permitted at the residence
- Alcoholic beverages or drugs are possessed or consumed at the residence by any minor
- The person knows that an alcoholic beverage or drug is in the possession of or being consumed by a minor
- The person fails to take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of the alcoholic beverage or drug.
The Open House Parties law places a duty on not only the host but anyone who is in charge of a residence to prevent alcohol or drug use in at their party by minors. It is not enough just to not serve it. Even if you have designated your party as “BYOB” where people bring their own alcohol and you provide nothing, if you know that a minor is consuming alcohol, you are required to prevent even the possession thereof.
Violation of the law will result in up to a first-degree misdemeanor if someone is injured in an auto accident or another incident caused by the drunk minor. In addition to the criminal conviction, there is exposure to liability for injuries which may result from the minor’s possession or consumption. Under negligence per se, a person may found automatically negligent regardless of whether or not they acted reasonably if that person violated a criminal law or regulation. The analysis by the court leaves little room for defense as the injury party merely needs to prove that the law was violated.
Not every law will trigger negligence per se. Only laws which are designed to promote safety or prevent injury. In order to prove negligence per se, an injured person must show:
- The defendant violated a statute or regulation;
- The statute or regulation was designed to protect some group of people from harm;
- The plaintiff was in the group the statute aims to protect; and
- The defendant’s actions caused the kind of injury that the statute was designed to protect the plaintiff (and those like him) against.
Florida courts have determined that the Open Parties Law is a safety law. The law is designed to protect the public as well as minors themselves from injuries by immature consumption of alcohol. Therefore, if you are hosting a party you need to be mindful of consumption or even possession of alcohol or drugs by minors. Failing to prevent the consumption or possession of alcohol after learning of it will trigger a violation of the Open House Party Law. Once that violation is triggered, you are exposed to liability for injuries caused by the minor. As immature consumption of alcohol exposes the entire public to danger especially if the minor chooses to drive, the law has been construed to protect virtually everyone who may come in contact with them. With such a broad category, any plaintiff that is injured by a minor after they leave a social gathering may have a claim against the host of the party. The kind of injury that can be caused by an intoxicated minor can range anywhere from self-inflicted injury to death of another.
Given the broad range of victims and injuries, if a person is injured by a minor who was known to the host of a social gathering to be drinking at their party, it is very easy to prove a negligence per se.
If You Have Been Injured By An Intoxicated Minor, Contact a St. Petersburg Injury Attorney Today
While proving negligence per se easier than other injury cases, you will need to first establish a violation of the Open House Party Law. The St. Petersburg attorneys at Dolman Law Group are well versed in both Negligence Per Se and the Open House Party’s Law and will fight to maximize the damages recovered. Call 727-222-6922 today for a free consultation.