Illinois Supreme Court Rules on Social Host Liability

The Illinois Supreme Court recently handed down a decision affecting the liability of social hosts.

In Bell v. Hutsell, Daniel Bell, an 18-year-old man, consumed alcohol at a friend’s house during a party and soon after, he died in an automobile accident. Bell’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit and the case found its way in the hands of the Illinois Supreme Court. The court was posed with deciding whether the parents of Bell’s friend who threw the house party could be held liable for his death under the theory of social host liability.

The lawsuit alleged that since the parents of Bell’s friend knew that there was underage drinking at the party held in their house, but did not do anything to stop it, they were liable for Bell’s death. However, the court concluded that the parents of Bell’s friend did not have a legal duty in Illinois to prevent underage drinking on their property. And since they had no duty, they could not be held legally responsible for Bell’s death. The court dismissed the lawsuit without awarding damages.

Social Host Liability

Generally, under the theory of social host liability, adults who serve alcohol to minors (or to a person who is clearly intoxicated) can be held liable if the minor is injured, killed or kills or injures someone else.

However, social host liability laws vary in each state. Some states only assess liability to alcohol served to minors; other states rule that hosts are only liable if they serve obviously intoxicated persons.

Social Host Liability in Illinois

Illinois social host liability law imposes liability on commercial establishments, people who are licensed to sell alcohol, and adults who serve alcohol to minors.

However, as outlined in Bell, adults who simply allow or permit minors to drink on their premises in Illinois cannot be held liable under the law.

In the wake of the holiday season, understanding specific social host liability laws in your state is recommended.


Alcohol and Causing Personal Injury: Immediate Vehicle Seizure!

Illinois lawmakers have expanded the alcohol related offenses for which the police may immediately seize your vehicle. Under the amended law, the police may seize your vehicle if it is operated by a driver who is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or similar intoxicants and the driver’s license has been revoked or suspended for the same reasons.

If the driver was in a car accident that was the proximate cause of personal injury that resulted in death, great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement the police may take steps to seize your vehicle. That’s not all-if it is your third violation for driving under the influence and you don’t have a driver’s license-say good-bye to your car. Lastly,  if you knew or even “should have known” that the vehicle was not covered by a liability insurance policy.

What this means for the victims of these car accidents is unclear but could only operate to help assure that the intoxicated driver has liability for the victims injuries and will help prevent him or her from getting behind the wheel again. Alcohol and autos do not mix and the more laws to prevent and deter drivers from drinking and driving the safer the roads for all of us.

More than ever, it is important that you consult your Chicago Injury Attorney to understand and advocate on your behalf whenever a car accident results in personal injury or property damage. Follow Grazian and Volpe on TV, YouTube and Facebook to make sure that you know your rights and duties!

This weekend alcohol will cause a hangover unseen in the new movie

Beware: alcohol plays a deadly role on Illinois roads this weekend.  Each year the State of Illinois publishes Illinois Crash Facts & Statistics.  The most recent publication, from 2009, offers insights into car collisions involving fatalities, involving alcohol over Holiday Weekends, including Memorial Day Weekend.  The statistics speak loudly as to the effect of alcohol on our roadways.

Memorial Day Weekend offers many opportunities: a springboard into summer, a long weekend away, and the near promise of warm summer days ahead.  The traffic crash statistics paint a dark side to this fun weekend.  Memorial Day weekend is the most deadly Holiday weekend of the year on our roads.  In 2009, page 37 of the report lists 17 automobile collisions over Memorial Day Weekend caused fatalities.  9 of the 17, or 52.9% of these collisions involved alcohol.  We represent individuals injured in automobile collisions with serious injuries where insurance coverage exists, the negligent driver is uninsured and where the negligent driver is underinsured.

In short, a dark side to Holiday weekends exists, where everyone involved loses.  The fun and promise of the weekend turn to horror and grief, while the reoccuring annual holiday reminds families and loved ones every year of loss.  As the injured and their families begin recovery, insurance companies present new obstacles.  Insurance policies do not cover criminal acts and actively employ lawyers to find an escape from covering an insured who drove while intoxicated.

This Memorial day, please drive safely.  If you plan to drink, designate a driver.  If you plan to drive, give the road your undivided attention: make phone calls or text messages either before or after you drive.  Finally, if you have an hour, review your automobile insurance policy for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.  Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages apply where a negligent driver either does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance or where the negligent drivers insurance company refuses to cover the loss.  Often, insurance companies fail to describe the inexpensive difference between a higher limit on uninsured and underinsured portions of your policy.