In car accidents that cause injury or death, a victim or family often files a civil lawsuit against the person responsible. Crashes attributed to drinking and driving are fairly easy to pinpoint; the intoxicated driver is usually found at fault and named the defendant in a personal injury or wrongful death suit. But a recent case in Salem Township, Pennsylvania, blamed someone other than the driver.

A woman pleaded guilty this morning to 12 counts of corruption of minors and reckless endangerment, along with 17 charges of furnishing alcohol to minors for a graduation party she hosted at her home in June 2010. The keg party was for her son, who had just graduated from high school. As four teens were leaving the party, their car ran off the road and crashed, killing two passengers and the driver and injuring a third passenger. The 19-year-old driver’s blood-alcohol level was .147 percent. In Pennsylvania, an underage driver is considered to be intoxicated with a blood-alcohol level of .02 percent.

The woman, who will be sentenced in about three months, could go to prison for up to 45 years, according to the district attorney. The woman’s attorney said his client turned over letters of condolence to the victims’ families and plans to make a full statement about the incident at her sentencing hearing. But she could still be hit with wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits on behalf of the victims.

Teenagers are notorious for making poor decisions. But as a parent, the convicted woman should have understood the illegality and irresponsibility of providing alcohol to her son’s underage classmates. Without the keg, the four teens probably would have made their way home safely from the party instead of fatally crashing just one mile away. It’s now up to their families to seek compensation for the costs associated with their loss.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Salem Township woman pleads guilty to serving alcohol at teen party,” Rich Cholodofsky, Jan. 23, 2012