STSW Teams with MADD and Lands on Winning Side in Maryland's Highest Court

Maryland’s highest court issued a ruling today imposing—for the first time—liability on social hosts who “intentionally and knowingly” serve alcohol to minors. The opinion arises out of two cases in which underage party-goers supervised by adults consumed alcohol and left the parties in motor vehicles, resulting in deaths and grave injuries.

The court looked to Maryland’s underage-drinking statute (Crim. L. § 10-117) to find that social hosts owe a legal duty both to minors and third parties injured by minors because of the broad array of potential harms that may result from the minor’s consumption of alcohol. In reaching the ruling, the court departed somewhat from its long-held view that “[h]uman beings, drunk or sober, are responsible for their own torts.” The court observed that the Maryland General Assembly has recognized clear evidence that minors are less capable of making responsible decisions concerning alcohol consumption and has accordingly enacted numerous laws demonstrating its commitment to protecting those minors and their potential victims.

Silverman|Thompson|Slutkin|White|LLC filed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a national organization dedicated to preventing and supporting victims of impaired driving and underage drinking. The court’s decision represents a major victory for the thousands of Marylanders each year who are injured or lose a family member or loved one because of drunk and impaired drivers.