Teens Drinking – When are Parents Liable?

It is so tempting to be the cool parent.  The one who has the party at her house for the teens and thoughtfully gathers up the keys so the kids who are drinking will not be tempted to drive home.

Which is why every parent should have a copy of Section 2.02 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code taped to her refrigerator.

That is the law that makes the cool parent liable for personal injury or property damage caused by one of those drunk teens.    A fight, a rape, a car wreck – that’s right, the cool parent just stepped up for the lawsuit and resulting price tag.

Actually, the liability extends beyond the parent to any adult who is 21 years old or older who served or provided alcohol to a minor under the age of 18.  There is a bill pending in the Texas legislature that would expand the class of minors to include kids between the ages of 18 and 21.

And lest a parent thinks that she can throw the party and then use the defense that she didn’t provide the alcohol – the law states the she is liable if she knowingly allowed a minor to be served or provided alcoholic beverages on the premises owned or leased by her.    Walking through the party and spotting a beer brought in by someone else is enough to pin the liability on the adult.

It could be that the parent will think that a jury of her peers will be lenient when they find out what a wonderful community leader she is.    Not in this part of Texas, where juries don’t like adults who abdicate their responsibilities.  Neither do judges.

Do you want to be in a courtroom facing the victim of a drunk teen driver and explain how you were the cool parent?

I didn’t think so.