This Chicago DUI attorney has posted here and here about being held responsible for a DUI when you weren’t drinking or driving. No, not a criminal charge, but when you get sued for someone consuming alcohol on your property, and you didn’t serve it to them. The Illinois Supreme Court has drawn a line in the sand for host liability.
This case arises out of the death of Daniel Bell, age 18, who died in a single-car accident after he had allegedly consumed alcoholic beverages at the residence of defendants in the course of a party organized and hosted by the defendants’ son, Jonathan. Plaintiff’s second amended complaint implicitly acknowledges that the defendants did not provide alcohol for underage consumption, and in fact alleges that defendants informed Jonathan both that alcohol consumption would not be tolerated and that they would monitor the party to see that underage partygoers did not possess or imbibe alcoholic beverages. Plaintiff alleges, however, that the Hutsells were aware of underage consumption on their premises at prior parties; that their son, Jonathan, had previously pled guilty to underage consumption; that alcohol was brought to the party in question and underage guests drank, excessively, with the Hutsells’ knowledge—in some instances in their presence—without objection or consequence; and that Jerry Hutsell “on multiple occasions spoke to a number of underage partygoers who had been drinking alcohol and requested that if they had been drinking at the party not to drive a vehicle when leaving.” The complaint states that Daniel Bell drank alcohol “in full and open view of the defendants,”and that he later walked to his car, “began driving,” and “crashed his car into a tree,” resulting in his death.
Do you think you should be held liable for an adult, albeit an underage adult but an adult nonetheless, drinking and driving?
More from Bell v. Hutsell:
We note that the facts alleged in this case bear little similarity to those this court addressed in Wakulich and Simmons v. Homatas, 236 Ill. 2d 459 (2010) (employees of club ejected highly intoxicated individual, placed him in his vehicle, and directed him to drive away), both of which were discussed in the parties’ briefs to a greater or lesser extent for diverse reasons. In those cases, this court applied Restatement principles, as we have done here. However, in each of those cases defendants’ affirmative conduct, amounting to an assertion of control over an inebriated and significantly impaired person, increased the risk of harm to that person and/or created a risk of harm to others. Thus, different considerations applied. Here, where defendants owed Daniel no duty to prohibit his voluntary possession or consumption of alcohol, and took no action to do so pursuant to their verbalized intent, which was communicated only to their son, we have a case of true nonfeasance. We think the facts and analysis of this case point up the continuing significance of a distinction between malfeasance and nonfeasance.
The Illinois Supreme Court didn’t think so either. Still, you don't want to have to defend yourself in a case like this do you?