Mercer Island’s social host ordinance targets underage drinking

Today on Mercer Island, a new ordinance goes into effect which holds parents and homeowners responsible if teenagers drink at their homes.

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The ordinance cites homeowners or parents even if they are unaware that drinking occurred at their home. If cited, the homeowner will have to pay a fine of $250 regardless of whether they were aware of the underage drinking.

This new ordinance is highly contentious and is likely to be contested in court as it is the first of its kind in Washington state. A coalition of parents on Mercer Island, Communities that Care Coalition, lobbied for the new ordinance as one strategy to reduce underage drinking. The law might make sense for parents of teens under the age of 18 but most parents don’t feel the need to provide supervision of teens 18 and older who are legal adults in every aspect except for alcohol.

Teenage Drinking
Teens who drink often binge drink. Binge drinking is often done in groups and the intent is intoxication. While binge drinking is more prevalent among teenage males, teen girls also engage in the risky behavior. Binge drinking is statistically linked to alcoholism in later life and it increases the chance for a teen to participate in risky behaviors such as drinking and driving.

Teenage Drinking and Driving
While teenagers are less likely than adults to drink and drive, when they do drive after they drink there car accident risk is substantially higher — almost twice as much — than adults even at low or moderate blood alcohol concentrations (BAC). Every year approximately 1,900 teenagers under 21 die from alcohol-related car accidents.

Social Host Liability

Although the definition of a “social host” can vary from state-to-state, a social host is a person who provides alcohol as an act of hospitality to a guest or condones the use of alcohol by a guest on property that the host controls. The property can be a home but it might also be a boat, a beach or a hotel room.

Social Host Liability finds that the supplier of alcohol may be liable to persons injured as a result of an intoxicated guest’s actions because the social host has a duty to the public to reduce risk of injury and to serve alcohol responsibly.

If a parent allows alcohol to be served at an underage party, and a drunken teen leaves on their own and is involved in a motor vehicle accident, that parent can be held strictly liable under the law.

Injured in an Accident Caused by a Drunk Driver?
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident where alcohol was a factor, or if your loved one was killed, you may choose to seek the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer. A Seattle personal injury attorney can advise you of your legal rights and options. An experienced personal injury attorney will determine if a bar or restaurant (dram shop liability) may also be liable for the accident because they over served a patron.

At The Farber Law Group we always offer a Free and Confidential case evaluation. We have more than 30 years representing accident victims and their families.

Contact The Farber Law Group at 1-800-244-9087 or to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation. We have offices in Bellevue to assist you.

Related Posts:

Social host liability: are you liable if someone you served alcohol to gets into a car accident?

“Social host liability” laws and serving alcohol to minors

King County Medical Examiner releases report on 2010 traffic accident deaths

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