Keeping Your Child Safe during Prom Season & Laws on Underage Drinking

Jennifer A. Barry

High school prom and graduation season is here. While it’s supposed to be an exciting time of year, time and time again, we see families faced with terrible tragedies, mainly because many parents allow their children (and their underage friends) to drink in their home. While it may seem harmless to allow underage children to have a “few” friends over and let them have a “little alcohol”… it is not. And, as we know from several well publicized incidents in the last few years, these “little gatherings” can get out of hand and result in permanent and life-altering injuries to guests and the public.

Generally, under Rhode Island law, there is no “social host” liability. This means that if an adult guest in someone’s home consumes too much alcohol and ends up harming another person, the homeowner is generally not liable. However, there are several exceptions to this rule that may allow an injured person to recover monetary damages; one such exception involves underage children drinking alcohol. The Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that “parents and hosts” of underage minors need only “comply with existing law and refuse to provide alcohol or condone underage drinking” to avoid liability. Martin v. Marciano, 871 A.2d 911 (RI 2005). Laws vary according to state.

We at Decof, Barry, Mega & Quinn, P.C. want to remind all families that a few simple steps can ensure it will be a season to remember for all the right reasons.

  • First, talk to your child openly and frankly about the dangers of underage drinking, not just drinking and driving.
  • Be aware of your child’s activities and establish ground rules.
  • When your child goes out with friends, know where they are going, and who they will be with.
  • Find out the alcohol “house rules” at your child’s friend’s home.

While it is well known that in Rhode Island it is illegal to permit the consumption of alcohol by underage guests, our office still finds itself all too often representing those injured as a result of alcohol-related incidents. If your child or another family member has been injured as a result of an individual being served alcohol, it is important that you act quickly and retain a lawyer so that evidence such as texts, video footage, and messaging can be preserved. It is just as important that youhire a law firm such asDecof, Barry, Mega & Quinn that has the experience and expertise required to navigate Rhode Island’s complex social host and dram shop liquor liability laws.