Most parents of teenagers have some concern about whether their children use alcohol. If you're the parent of a teen, restricting access to the alcohol in your home and talking with your teen about the risks of underage drinking are two good steps to take. But there's no guarantee that your teen and his friends won't find other ways to drink alcohol, particularly if other parents aren't as diligent about prohibiting teen drinking.
The parents of a 17-year-old Chalk Hill, Pennsylvania, boy who died in a drunk-driving accident last year are suing the owner of a posh Fayette County resort, claiming that he allowed his daughter and her friends -- including the plaintiffs' son -- to drink before getting into the fatal crash. The parents say that the owner knew his then-15-year-old daughter would serve liquor to her friends and did nothing to stop it. The couple are suing the father, his daughter, the teen driver who caused the accident and the resort for wrongful death and negligence. The suit also names Nemocolin, where the resort is located, claiming that the speed limit at the curve where the driver lost control was unsafe and contributed to the fatal crash.
According to the lawsuit, the resort owner was home while his daughter hosted an underage drinking party in September 2011 but did nothing to stop the teens from drinking, and that such parties were a regular occurrence at the home and the resort. On the night their son died, the parents allege, the teens got into a car driven by a drunk 17-year-old boy, who lost control on a curve in the road and crashed into a tree. The plaintiffs' son, who was riding in the back seat, was ejected from the car and died five days later.
The driver, now 18, was charged as a juvenile with several offenses, including driving under the influence, homicide and aggravated assault by vehicle, and homicide by vehicle while DUI. If the parents' wrongful death lawsuit is successful, the driver, resort owner, his daughter and others could end up having to compensate the parents for the wrongful death of their son.
The lawsuit reminds us that while parents have some control over how to restrict their children's alcohol use, a lack of concern by other can lead to tragic accidents like this one.
Source: TribLive, "Parents sue Joe Hardy, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort for son's death," Liz Zemba, Oct. 30, 2012
• Our firm handles situations similar to the one described in this post. To learn more about our practice, visit our Harrisburg wrongful death page.