If someone furnishes alcohol to a minor who then causes damages to a third party, the server may be liable for the damages suffered by the third party. This applies whether the person who served alcohol was a bar owner or just a social host entertaining at home.
If an adult consumes drinks at a home social gathering and later negligently injures himself or someone else, the homeowner ordinarily will not be liable. However, Michigan courts have held that if someone under the legal drinking age is served alcoholic beverages at a home social gathering, then either he or anyone injured by him may sue and recover from the homeowner for injuries sustained. The reason, of course, is that it has long been against the criminal law in Michigan to serve or provide alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 21.
Therefore, anyone having a party who expects attendance by persons under the age of 21 should ensure that liquor is not made available to, or brought in to be consumed by, anyone who is under the legal drinking age.
Further, while there will ordinarily be no liability if you do not furnish alcohol to someone who is underage, you may still have a problem if you had knowledge of anyone else bringing liquor to your house and you took no action to stop its consumption. Therefore, diligence should be exercised in keeping persons under age 21 away from any alcoholic beverages while on your property.
Parents may be liable if their kids party
Another very serious, potential consequence occurs when the minor son or daughter of a homeowner decides to have a party for friends at the house while mom and dad are on vacation. If the child is under 18, the law says that mom and dad have a duty to supervise the child. As a result, the parents may be greeted upon their return from the Caribbean with news that they have been named as the defendants in a lawsuit. If the child is over 18, the law still says that the child may not drink, but the duty to supervise ends. Therefore, an injury to, or caused by, an under-21-year-old minor who was served alcoholic beverages at the party of your 18-year-old child should not result in your being held personally liable. The result may be different, however, if you were aware of the party and had reason to know that alcoholic beverages would be served to underage guests.
Lawyers who represent plaintiffs injured by drunk drivers will continue to look for creative new legal theories for recovery against homeowners. So, be cautious when selecting party or social guests and when deciding to serve or provide alcoholic beverages.