Regarding those under 21, the Massachusetts law regarding alcohol consumption is clear: Don’t. Further, if you host a party at which underage drinking is occurring, you need to be aware that you’re opening yourself up to potential liability, particularly if one of those underage guests takes off in a car.
First of all, M.G.L. Chapter 138, Section 34 makes it a criminal offense to furnish alcoholic drinks to someone under 21, and punishes violators with up to 1 year in jail and/ or a $2,000 fine. Beyond that, you could be held liable to pay damages to the minor or any third parties who are injured as a result of minors consuming alcohol you provided or allowed to be consumed.
A recent case out of Maryland, where similar laws exist, was pursued after an under-21 drinker left a party and caused a car accident, killing one and seriously injuring another. That case, Kiriakos v. Phillips, resulted in the Maryland Court of Appeals (the highest court in that state) issuing a determination that adults who allow underage drinking on their property may owe a civil duty to injured persons – including the minor who was drinking – and that defendants in this case owed both victims a duty of care. That was a reversal of the trial court’s ruling. Continue reading