June is a month filled with graduation parties parties, many of which are attended by children under the age of 21. An unfortunate reality is that alcohol is often consumed at such parties, which are too often followed by children getting into a motor vehicle to drive themselves, and their friends, home.
The consequences of drunk driving in Illinois, and around the nation, is well known, and was addressed in a previous post. The biggest nightmare of any parent is receiving a call in the middle of the night regarding one of the thousands of drunk driving accidents that occur each year.
However, if you or a loved one was severely injured in an accident as a result of a drunk driver, you should speak to an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer regarding your rights. If the drunk driver is a under the age of 18, it is possible to hold the parents of the minor, or others, responsible under what is called Social Host Liability.
In Illinois, the Social Host Ordinance is known as the Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act (740 ILCS 58/1) and became law in 2004. The Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act imposes civil liability against “any person at least 18 years of age who willfully supplies alcoholic liquor or illegal drugs to a person under 18 years of age” that impaired the minor, causing injury or death to another person.
Specifically, the Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act allows minors who were injured or killed to bring a cause of action against all persons:
(i) who, by willfully selling, giving, or delivering alcoholic liquor or illegal drugs, causes or contributes to the impairment of the person under the age of 18; or
(ii) who, by willfully permitting consumption of alcoholic liquor or illegal drugs on non-residential premises owned or controlled by the person over the age of 18, causes or contributes to the impairment of the person under the age of 18.
740 ILCS 58/5 (West 2004).
Under the Act it is possible for victims and their family members to recover the following damages:
- Economic damages, such as treatment and rehabilitation costs, medical expenses, loss of productivity, support expenses;
- Non-economic damages, including physical and emotional pain, suffering, physical impairment, emotional distress, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment, loss of companionship, services, and consortium
- Reasonable attorneys’ fees;
- Costs of suit, such as expert testimony expenses; and
- Punitive Damages
740 ILCS 58/10 (West 2004). These recoverable damages can be significant. The statute of limitations (aka the time in which a lawsuit must be filed) is two years, so it is critical to contact a top Chicago personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Stephen M. Passen, a top Chicago personal injury lawyer with Passen & Powell, has substantial experience handling catastrophic injury cases involving social host liability. In fact, Mr. Passen represented the family of a 16-year old girl in the seminal case involving social host liability, Wakulich v. Mraz, 203 Ill. 2d 223 (Ill. 2003). Mr. Passen argued the case before the Illinois Supreme Court.
Mr. Passen represented the mother of a 16-year-old girl, Elizabeth Wakulich, who was at the home of defendants, Michael Mraz (21-years-0ld), his brother Brian Mraz (18-years-old), and their father Dennis Mraz. The plaintiff, Elizabeth’s mother, alleged that Michael and Brian coerced Elizabeth by offereing her money and applying social pressure into drinking an entire bottle of Goldschlager.
Elizabeth then lost consciousness, and Michael and Brian placed her in the family room of their home, where they observed her “vomiting profusely and making gurgling sounds.” They later removed her vomit-saturated blouse and placed a pillow under her head to prevent aspiration. Brian and Michael then refused to drive Elizabeth home, did not contact her parents, did not seek medical attention, and “actually prevented other individuals at the home from calling 911 or seeking other medical intervention.” Elizabeth died later that day.
Mr. Passen, on behalf of Elizabeth’s mother, filed an action against the defendants for negligence in providing alcohol to daughter and against socials hosts and their father for negligent performance of a voluntary undertaking to care for daughter after she became unconscious.
Because there was no statute dealing with social host liability in effect at the time, the Illinois Supreme Court in Wakulich held that the defendants could not be found to be negligent under a “social host liability” theory. The court did, however, hold that the plaintiffs could pursue an action against the defendants based on a “voluntary undertaking” theory.
As a result of the Illinois Supreme Court’s Wakulich decision, the Illinois legislature enacted the Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act, which specifically allows for a cause of action against “social hosts” who provide alcohol to minors, resulting in their personal injury.
An experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer should be contacted to discuss all catastrophic or permanent alcohol-related injuries.