Criminal and Civil Liabilities Under Illinois 'Social Host' Act

Underage drinking continues to be a problem in Illinois, and across the nation as well. Much needed policy reform addressing this issue came forth to Illinois residents with the 2004 enactment of the Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act. Pursuant to the Act, codified under 740 ILCS 58:

  1. Any person at least 18 years of age who willfully supplies alcoholic liquor or illegal drugs to a person under 18 years of age and causes the impairment of such person shall be liable for death or injuries to persons or property caused by the impairment of such person.
  2. A person, or the surviving spouse and next of kin of any person, who is injured, in person or property, by an impaired person under the age of 18, and a person under age 18 who is injured in person or property by an impairment that was caused by alcoholic liquor or illegal drugs that were willfully supplied by a person over 18 years of age, has a right of action in his or her own name, jointly and severally, for damages (including reasonable attorney's fees and expenses) against any person:
    1. 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
    2. 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.

Currently, civil liability for injuries or death caused as a result of underage drinking require some component of a “voluntary undertaking,” as established in the landmark Illinois case on this issue, Bell v. Hutsell. As such, parents who host a party, generally must perform some type of affirmative action, which includes more than promise to monitor, in order for civil liability to attach. However, as also noted in Bell v. Hutsell, when parents undertake a responsibility to care for an intoxicated underage guest, then civil liability could arise. Because Illinois law regarding civil liability for social hosts can be quite confusing, our premise injury attorneys advise Chicago parents, that it always best to err on the side of caution, rather than risk liability. In cases where civil liability does attach, parents can also be found liable for motor vehicle accidents, which may occur as a result of underage drinking having taken place on their private property. The full text of the Illinois statute regarding civil liability for underage drinking can be accessed at: (740 ILCS 58/) Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act.

Recent amendments to the Illinois Liquor Control Act, which became effective January 1, 2013, provide for criminal liability under much stricter guidelines than those for civil liability. Under the amendment, knowingly permitting underage alcohol consumption can result in a Class A misdemeanor, however if death or injury occurs as a consequence of such underage drinking, you can be found guilty of a Class 4 Felony. A full text of the Illinois statute regarding criminal liability for underage drinking can be accessed at: (235 ILCS 5/) Liquor Control Act of 1934.

If your child was injured or killed as a result of underage drinking, which you suspect occurred on private property, contact Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. today at 773-516-4100, or online at our website, for a free personal injury consultation with a Chicago premise liability or wrongful death attorney.

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