It’s Prom Season: Liquor Liability for Allowing Minors to Drink Alcohol

liquor liability for prom party

What You Need to Know About Prom Season

Since it’s Prom Season, let’s talk about liquor liability for social hosts.

Let’s say you’re one of those parents who thinks, “teenagers are going to drink, so I’m going to allow my kids to drink in my home so they won’t do it somewhere else.”  Your teenager asks you if he can have a “Prom After-Party” at your home with a few friends. You agree. You also agree that they can “drink a little.” You tell your son that no one will be allowed to drive.

Now consider this, let’s say your daughter was in a car accident on her way home from Starbucks after her Prom.  Other than coffee, she hadn’t had a drop to drink. The other driver was an underage intoxicated teenage girl who had just left a “Prom After-Party” at a private home where alcohol was served. She disregarded the “no one is driving home” rule that the parents set for the evening.

So, what’s the law on parents who allow minors to drink in their homes?

Social Host Liquor Liability

In general, if you host a party and serve free alcohol to your guests, you’re not going to be liable if they become intoxicated and injure someone on the way home.  Tennessee Liquor Liability statutes are designed to apply mainly to bars, restaurants, and liquor stores, so there’s a distinction between selling alcohol and otherwise providing it. Tenn. Code Ann. 57-10-102.  However, as is usually the case, there are exceptions, meaning that even if you don’t sell alcohol, you could still become liable under certain circumstances.

Serving Alcohol to Minors

If you have a party at your home and serve alcohol to a minor who becomes intoxicated, you could be held liable if that minor causes injury or damage to a third person.  You could even be liable if you don’t provide the alcohol, but you know the minors are drinking it. This is because, in some cases, the law considers an adult host to be in a “special relationship” with a minor guest, such that the adult host owes a duty to ensure the safety of the minor guest, as well as to keep the minor from driving while intoxicated.

social host liquor liability

Liquor Liability Law in Tennessee is Complex

It is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible if you have a potential Liquor Liability case.  While underage drinking is certainly illegal, civil liability implications are extremely fact-intensive and liability varies from case to case.

Wiseman Bray has offices in Memphis and Nashville TN. If you have a question about liquor liability, the Dram Shop Act, or social host laws in Tennessee, please call us at 901-372-5003 or email us here.

Example of a Liquor Liability Case Involving Minors

For an example of a liquor liability case involving minors and alcohol, read the Biscan v. Brown case.