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Could your teen's after-prom party leave you liable for damages?

If your teenager is in the late stages of "senioritis," about the only thing that might rouse them from their state of lassitude is the anticipation of prom. However, along with selecting the perfect outfit and making nail and hair appointments, there are also bound to be plenty of plans for the after-prom festivities.

Many parents, seeking some semblance of control over their child's activities on prom night, offer to host after-prom parties for their teenagers and the teens' friends. While that is certainly an option, parents must also realize the potential liability they undertake when there are young people celebrating in their homes.

California's social host liability laws are much less strict than those in many other states. California puts the onus of liability on the impaired person and their actions as opposed to the person who provided alcohol to that individual. That leeway is lost immediately when the intoxicated person who injures themselves or others is underage and was served alcohol.

This puts parents in a bad situation. Under the law, the parent or other adult must have knowingly provided the alcohol to the person they knew was a minor. However, especially in civil law, words like "knowingly" are susceptible to interpretation. An argument can be made that a parent knew or should have known that teens on prom night are likely to smuggle in alcohol to after-parties. Thus, they should have responded accordingly and prevented the ensuing damages from occurring.

None of this means that you should shirk from the hosting duties of your teen's after-prom party. Instead, use this as a teachable moment with your teen as you explain the need to keep the party environment alcohol-free for the safety of all parties.

Parents whose teens were injured as a result of underage drinking at an after-prom party may need to take civil action to recover any losses.

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