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Pennsylvania resort owners sued after fatal drunk driving crash

A Pennsylvania couple has filed a lawsuit against the parents of a teen who hit a tree while driving drunk after leaving a party, fatally injuring their son. Because the parents of the teenage driver owned the resort where the party was held, there is a premises liability issue in this case.

The party was hosted by the resort-owners’ 15-year-old daughter.  Their 17-year-old son, the driver involved in the fatal accident, was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.136 percent. In Pennsylvania, teenage drivers can be cited for intoxicated driving if their blood alcohol level is 0.02 percent or more; adults are legally drunk when their blood alcohol content is .08 percent or higher.

The lawsuit contends that the resort-owners were aware that their daughter held parties where alcohol was served to underage drinkers. The parents of the boy who was killed have argued that the resort-owners were obligated to take action to block their daughter’s access to alcohol at their establishment.  

In a cross-complaint filed late last year, the resort accuses the parents of the teen who was killed in the crash of negligent supervision.  The resort alleges that the boy’s parents were aware of past instances in which their son drove drunk himself and rode in cars with others who were driving drunk, yet took no steps to prevent this from happening again.

The lawyers for the parents of teen who was killed have said the cross-claim sets an unrealistic standard of responsibility for parents in the actions of their teenaged children. They say they did not know their son was planning to attend the party at the resort nor that the host would be over-serving partygoers.

The future of this lawsuit remains to be seen as the parents of the young victim seek justice. When a drunk driving accident occurs in Pennsylvania, it is often possible to hold not only the drunk driver legally accountable, but also the bar or establishment that over-served the individual. A party that provided alcohol to a minor driver may also be liable for any injuries that the minor goes on to cause; in fact, serving alcohol to minors can also result in criminal charges.

Source: TribLIVE, “Fayette parents want claims tossed from suit over son's death in crash,” by Liz Zemba, April 8, 2014

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