Dram Shop

Several articles in the news recently on adult responsibility for failing to supervise their children, or even worse, providing their children with alcohol.  CNN’s article “Teen Drinking Leads to Crackdown on Cool Parents”tells the story of a mother, Kecia Evangela, who allegedly served alcohol to one of her son’s friends, a 16 year old boy.  The boy subsequently crashed his car and died.  Ms. Evangela was arrested for furnishing alcohol to a minor and reckless conduct.

States have reacted to “social hosting”, the act of parents providing their teenage children’s friends with alcohol, by passing laws requiring fines on parents whose homes are used for drinking parties, whether the parent knows about the party or not.  24 states now have fines of several thousand dollars for each offense of social hosting.  The hope is that the hefty fines will deter this activity. 

The article also cites a 2005 AMA study that found 1/3 of teens said it was easy to obtain alcohol from their parents.  The same survey found that 40% of teens reported that it was easy to obtain alcohol from their friend’s parents.  Clearly a sign that kids know who the “cool” parents are. 

Chicagotribune.com has the storyof a woman whose home-owner’s insurance paid $2.5million to settle a lawsuit claiming that she failed to supervise her children, who held an underage drinking party in her home.  Two of her daughters’ friends drank beer in her daughter’s bedroom.  One of the teens crashed their vehicle while driving home from the drinking party.   The other teenager was paralyzed in the wreck.

The lawsuit did not allege the mother provided the children with alcohol, and it was not alleged she even knew that the children were drinking in her house.  The lawsuit claimed she failed to monitor the teens in her house and should have monitored them, because her children had been caught drinking before in her home. 

Mother Against Drunk Driving is an organization committed to eliminating drunk driving and toughening penalties on those who provide teens with alcohol.  They deserve support for their mission.

Princeton Insurance refused to pay policy limits of $1 Million in a suit against a bar.  The suit was based on the acts of the manager of the bar who served himself alcohol, drove drunk, hit the victim who was working directing traffic, and fled the scene.  The acts of the tavern manager made the victim, Joseph Tuski, a quadriplegic.  Mr. Tuski had $1.6 million in past medical expenses, $2 million in lost earnings and the jury found he needed $18 million for future medical expenses.

The jury in the underlying case awarded a $75 million verdict.  The judge in the case reduced the jury’s verdict to $37.5 million.  The owners of the bar assigned the claim against their insurance company, for failing to pay Mr. Tuski’s claim timely, to the plaintiff, Mr. Tuski. 

In a story about the case, Plaintiff’s counsel said Princeton had actual knowledge of the serious injuries the plaintiff suffered from and knew there were no defenses to hide behind.  Princeton ignored the facts and law and refused to make an offer.  The insurance company could have avoided the verdict and the subsequent settlement had they done the right thing and paid the claim timely.  This is not an incident isolated to this insurance company, this is a nationwide trend, affecting consumers everywhere, especially here on the Gulf Coast, where consurmers have been at war with insurance companies over denial of claims since Katrina hit.