In the state of Florida, all private and commercial property owners are
subject to certain liability provisions defined by state premises law.
All residents of Florida bear the burden of general responsibility for
the safety of any person who sets foot into their home or onto their property.
Premises law applies especially to cases of underage drinking. In certain
cases, some parents may allow their teenage children and their children’s
friends to consume alcohol in their home under their supervision. Some
parents may feel this approach is sensible, as they can supervise and
moderate the drinking if need be. However, factors of premises liability,
dram shop laws, and potential child endangerment laws could apply.
Premises Liability, Other Laws and Underage Drinking
Premises liability, with respect to any underage drinking on private property,
could result in repercussions similar to those of Florida Dram Shop laws.
With respect to homeowners and private property owners, premises liability
laws would designate a parent’s child’s friend as a “licensee.”
Premises law protects licensees as such:
Licensees: This term applies to any guests who set foot on private property or those
who enter a private residence. Friends of the homeowner or friends of
teenage children, whether invited or uninvited, who are on the homeowner’s
property for social, non-business purposes are considered licensees. A
property owner bears the duty to repair any unsafe conditions as well
as an obligation to warn visitors of known dangers. If a homeowner permits
an unlawful activity, such as underage drinking, he/she can be held liable
for any injuries the guest suffers as well as any injuries the guest may
cause as a result of alcohol impairment.
Even if a parent attempts to supervise and moderate underage drinkers in
their home, and even if they expressly forbid any of the teens to leave
the premises, the homeowner is still in violation of state law and is
likely to be held responsible for any injuries that result. In an intoxicated
teenager slips or trips and suffers a traumatic brain injury or spinal
cord injury, the injured teen’s parents are well within their rights
to pursue a civil lawsuit against the homeowner.
The homeowner could be held financially responsible for the costs of the
teen’s medical care plus large amounts for maintenance and lost
earning potential in any case where the injury is permanent or debilitating.
Furthermore, one of your guests could sneak off or choose to drive –
despite any ground rules you’ve set. If they are involved in a
drunk driving accident or kill someone in the process, the serving homeowner could be held financially
responsible. In addition, the homeowner might face criminal charges of
serving alcohol to minors. Even with constant supervision, the risks associated
with permitting underage drinking are not worthwhile – particularly
in the modern era of torts and large settlements.
Dram Shop Laws and Serving Minors
dram shop laws do not apply specifically to homeowners and are mainly intended to govern
the business practices of bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to customers.
A “dram shop” law or statute is a term associated with liability
for injuries caused by drunk drivers. Florida’s dram shop law, statute
768.125, reads as follows:
“…a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes
alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or who
knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all
alcoholic beverages may become liable for injury or damage caused by or
resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person.”
Florida’s dram shop law has specific terms with regard to underage
alcohol consumption. If the driver is under the lawful drinking age (21
in FL), serving establishments bear the burden of responsibility in verifying
legal drinking age in all customers as well as denying service if they
suspect use of a fraudulent or otherwise questionable ID. If an underage
driver is served alcohol, then leaves the establishment and causes an
accident, any party injured in that accident can pursue a legitimate claim
against the establishment under current Florida dram shop law.
In this case, a local bar owner might consider serving their son or daughter’s
friends – even if they are underage. If a bartender or owner of
an establishment serves alcohol to underage patrons, he/she can be held
responsible for any damage or injuries the patrons cause after leaving
the establishment. Taking the risk of serving minors, just because they
are under your direct supervision, is simply not worth the potential liability risk.
The Florida Senate (Negligence Statute)
Find Law (.com)
Online Sunshine – 2012 Florida Statutes