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Breaking Down the Law: Underage drinking parties in the age of COVID

Last week, 2 parents in Massachusetts were charged in relation to a large social gathering of teens at their home.

The party involved underage minors drinking in the parents’ basement, in violation of social distancing and gathering guidelines.

As a result of the party, the local high school had to delay their opening while party-goers underwent a 14-day quarantine.

What crimes are the couple facing, and could Parents in Nevada face similar charges? Here to discuss the matter is attorney Matt Hoffmann with Battle Born Injury Lawyers.

Thanks, etc.

  1. Let’s start with the Massachusetts couple. What criminal charges are the facing as a result of allowing this party to occur?
  • This story is a classic case of “burying the lead.”
  • The “HEADLINE” is that the parents allowed a huge party to take place in their basement, in violation of State mandates on gathering sizes and mask wearing.
  • But what the parents are being charged with has nothing to do with COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Instead, the parents are being charged with Hosting a party involving underage drinking.
    • “Social Host” liability.
  • So the parents are NOT being charged with any crimes based upon violation of COVID-19 restrictions.
  • HOWEVER, they could face civil liability due to the outcome from hosting the party.
  • This would include liability to any party-goers who attended and who get sick.
  • But the bigger issue is the expenses incurred by the local high school, which was forced to close for 14 days in order for attendees – not all of whom are known – to quarantine.
  • So these parents could face civil liability, and at least any minors who became ill could bring claims against the parents’ Homeowner’s Policies.
  • The school district could also make a claim against the homeowner’s policy, although I think that is unlikely.
  1. If this same scenario occurred here, in Nevada, would the outcome be the same?
  • Well, for one, we know from recent activities that fines can be levied against businesses that violate gathering size limits.
  • But I’m unaware of any Emergency Declaration banning homeowners from having large gatherings at their homes.
  • And such a ban would be vastly different than a business, where the State and Local Governments have authority over businesses by way of their licenses.
  • So I think if the same situation happened here in Nevada, we could see a similar criminal action, based upon parents providing alcohol to minors.
  • Nevada generally forbids criminal or civil liability for overserving (Dram Shop Laws), but there is a clear exception when the person being furnished alcohol is a minor.
  • As to civil liability, a Homeowner would face similar potential liability as the homeowners in Massachusetts, but the most glaring difference would be the fact our Public schools are closed, so there would be no need for students to quarantine for 14 days.
  • But if the minors all attended a private school, there could, possibly, be a potential claim against the parents. But just like in Massachusetts I don’t think it would be likely.