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Do you understand Florida's social host liability laws?

Parents sometimes rationalize allowing their children and their friends to consume alcohol in the family home before they turn 21 by saying, "I'd rather have them drink here at home than out on the road." There is some logic behind that argument, but that choice could carry a hefty price tag.

Florida is one of the states that has laws regarding social host liability when minors are involved. What this means to parents and homeowners is that they can be held legally responsible for the actions of underage drinkers who consume alcoholic beverages on the parents' property or at a party they or they minor children are hosting.

The reasoning behind these laws is to deter underage drinking and decrease the number of alcohol-related deaths and injuries to minors. The law specifies that the party hosts who permit underage drinking have a duty of care not to allow minors to drink or to provide them with alcohol. The law uses terms like "furnishing alcohol" by making it available to minors and "serving alcohol," which means that the hosts "knowingly and affirmatively delivered" alcoholic beverages to kids they knew weren't old enough to drink.

If a minor drinks at a party hosted by his friends' parents and then leaves and totals his car, getting critically injured and killing another driver, the party hosts can be held liable for the minor's injuries as well as the wrongful death of the other driver.

Parents of teens who get hurt or killed while drunk on booze they consumed at a hosted party can pursue the adult in charge (and their homeowner's policy) for any damages stemming from the lapse in judgment.

Source: Findlaw, "Social Host Liability," accessed Dec. 24, 2015

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