Just when I think I have seen it all, another outrageous lawsuit story comes across my desk! This time it involves an underage drinker, a 19-year-old man from Illinois who visits the home of two friends, drinks alcohol while he is there, gets in a car with another intoxicated driver, and end up paralyzed in a car accident.
Clearly a case of bad judgment, right? So who is bearing the legal responsibility for the teen's mistakes? The driver of the vehicle? The teen himself? No, it's the mom of the girls he was visiting! It seems that, according to the lawsuit, although she did not buy or serve alcohol or even know the kids were drinking, she should have monitored the teenagers more carefully in her own home. The girls' mother will pay a $2.5 million settlement.
Although laws differ from state to state, some common-sense thinking should universally apply here. For instance, if someone has been drinking and gets in a car with someone else who has been drinking, and the predictable car accident happens, he should not be able to recover money damages from a third party. He is an irresponsible teenager making his own bad decisions that caused devastating injuries. That is no one's fault but his. Seems pretty clear cut to me.
Yet this "blame game," which clogs our courts with frivolous lawsuits, is more and more common these days as parents raise children to make excuses for why nothing is their fault, teach them to point the finger at someone else, and shelter them from both short-term and long-term consequences. This generation is learning to play the victim, instead of rising up to take responsibility for their actions and really learn from their mistakes.
This case would not fly in Virginia, as the mother would not have liability if she did not know there was drinking taking place in her home. A parent might be criminally liable (and parents have gone to jail for a long time in Virginia for serving alcohol to minors), but no one who gets into a car with someone they just spend the evening drinking with should be able to sue anyone!
Ben Glass is a car accident attorney in Virginia. He is the author of seven books, including Five Deadly Sins That Can Wreck Your Car Accident Case.