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Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on April 21st, 2011,
by Zane Cagle

Illinois Social Liability Laws: Holding Adults Responsible

Posted on April 21st, 2011 by Zane Cagle

Car Accident Results in Death of 12 Year-Old

A car accident in near Fairview Heights has left a 12-year old girl dead. A 20-year old Collinsville man has been charged with two counts of aggravated driving under the influence and one count of reckless homicide. According to reports,  the accident occurred on Illinois 159 near Stonewolf Trail around 8:30 p.m. on April 18 th. Police indicated that the impaired driver was in a Jeep Cherokee when he allegedly crossed into the northbound lane where he hit a Fort Taurus head-on. Fire fighters had to extricate both occupants of the Ford Taurus, a 28-year old mother and her 12-year old daughter. Both victims were transported to the hospital, however, the daughter died Saturday morning. The driver of the Jeep was treated at Barnes Jewish Hospital and released to Fairview Heights police where he is currently held at the St. Clair County jail on bond of $250,000.

The above story is another story of needless tragedy and sadness. The beginning of spring is always a time when you shed your winter doldrums and get out of the house. Spring also brings about more opportunities for socialization at it marks the beginning of many summer parties. Parties are just one opportunity to consume alcoholic beverages. In regard to the above story, the driver under the influence not only was operating a vehicle was under age to consume alcohol.

According to U.S. Politics Today, “Underage drinking is not an uncommon occurrence in our society. High school and college students all too frequently have parties where excessive amounts of alcohol are being consumed by minors. This may not be terribly surprising, but it should be alarming.” While the above story was not related directly to the 2005 Illinois Social Host Liability Law, the tragedy poses an interesting discussion.

According to Illinois law, adults may be held responsible for minor’s use of alcohol and drugs that result in accidents. The Illinois Supreme Court just heard oral arguments in the ongoing case of Bell v. Hutsell where 2 teens were killed in an auto accident after drinking at a party at the defendant’s home. The defendants are the parents of the teen hosting the party; they did not supply the minors with alcohol. In fact, the parents even told their son they would not allow drinking at the party. The underage party goers brought their own alcohol and drank it while in the defendant’s home. Recently, the appellate court found that the defendants undertook a duty to prevent drinking in their home and were negligent in performing this duty. Therefore, the parents might be held liable for the results.

What is Illinois’ Social Host Liability Law?

Illinois passed a social host liability law in 2004. This law targets Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act (74-ILCS58/1) also known as the social host liability law, was passed in response to the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling in the Wakulich v. Mraz case. Wakulich, a 16-year old girl was pressured into drinking an entire bottle of liquor. Despite the fact that she was vomiting profusely and eventually passed out, no effort was made to provide her with medical attention. She died due to alcohol poisoning.

Due to the laws of at the time of the Wakulich case, the court held that the defendants, 16 and 18 year-old brothers and their father who was at home during the incident, could not be held liable under the social host liability. However, in response to the Wakulich case, the Illinois legislature created specifically a cause of action that would hold adults responsible if they provided minors access to alcohol, if the minors were subsequently injured or died, or if they injured or killed other as a result of their driving.

Who is affected by Social Host Liability?

The group most impacted by the law is parents of teenagers in Illinois. If parents allow a party to be held I their home and minors are also drinking alcohol while in their home, the parents may be held responsible for any resulting injuries or deaths that may result. Parents may also be held liable if an inebriated teenager gets behind the wheel and gets into an auto accident causing injuries or death to themselves or others.

The Social Host Liability Act involves placing more responsibility on parents and adults who might think of allowing minors to consume alcohol in their homes or supply minors with alcohol. Most can agree, assisting teenagers in getting alcohol has long been a frowned upon practice and only increases the chances of injuries or death.

Attorneys at The Cagle Law Firm want all teenagers to be safe and live long, happy lives. However, if your son or daughter is the victim of another’s negligence, you may have a claim for compensation. While compensation never replaces a person, it should make others rethink their decisions before breaking the law. If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident, it is smart to contact a personal injury attorney such as Zane T. Cagle of The Cagle Law Firm to determine if you have a personal injury or wrongful death claim. Call toll free at (314) 276-1681 or locally, 314.276.1681 for your free consultation today.