Maryland Court of Appeals Sets New Precedent for Social Host Liability

Social Host Liability in MarylandWe all know that drinking and driving is dangerous. We all know that it is illegal. Yet every day, someone gets behind the wheel of a car when he or she clearly should not, and puts the lives of themselves and others at risk. Thanks to the Maryland Court of Appeals, however, a new precedent has been set regarding liability in cases where underage drivers get behind the wheel when they are drunk.

As reported by the Washington Post, “Adults who provide alcohol to underage drinkers can [now] be held civilly liable for any death or harm that comes to others at the hands of the young people they hosted… because those under 21 aren’t competent to handle the potentially dangerous effects of alcohol.” This ruling remands two cases – Manal Kiriakos v. Brandon Phillips, in Baltimore County, and Nancy Dankos, et al. v. Linda Stapf, in Howard County – back to the lower courts. A new decision, based on new laws passed in the spring and the Court of Appeals’ opinion, could lead to justice for the families hurt by drunk teen drivers.

Social host liability vs. dram shop liability

The ruling made by the Court applies only to cases where underage drivers are “knowingly” and “willfully” served alcohol. If that driver then gets into an auto accident anywhere in Maryland, the person who served the alcohol – the social host – may be found liable for the damages.

However, the new ruling does not apply to adults who drink alcohol at another person’s house and then get into an auto accident, nor does it apply to restaurants or bars who overserve patrons and allow them to leave (known as dram shop liability). Still, because the Court has opened the door to those arguments, it is possible that legislators may look to create stronger social host laws, or introduce dram shop laws, in the future.

Fast facts about drunk driving in Maryland

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) keeps reports on drunk driving accidents across the country. This year, Maryland earned 5 stars for passing an all-offender ignition interlock bill. But we have some work to do. According to MADD’s numbers, 130 people were killed as the result of a drunk driver, and drunk driving fatalities cost Maryland taxpayers $747 million.

Every year, people sustain serious injuries and property loss, and many lose their lives or see their loved ones die, all because of drunk drivers. The Court’s opinion can help victims hold responsible parties accountable for their life-altering decisions. We can help, too. Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A. has upheld the rights of auto accidents victims in Maryland for more than 35 years. To schedule your free consultation with an experienced Baltimore auto accident lawyer, please call 410-730-7737, or fill out our contact form.