You Have to Fight for Your Right to Party: Liability of Parents for Underage Drinking

Posted by Tab Lawhorn | Oct 20, 2021 | 0 Comments

With Spring Break, Prom, and Graduation right around the corner, it is important to get some information 
out to parents that may be thinking that is safer for their teens to drink at their house than the multiple 
alternatives available in their community. Not only does Texas have pretty stiff criminal penalties for 
underage drinking, the consequences to the parents or any adult that provides them the alcohol can be 
severe. In Texas, any adult that provides alcohol to a person under the age of 21 years old can be subject 
to criminal penalties. However, the arm of the law also stretches to assign criminal and civil responsibility 
to any parent or adult who serve or supply alcohol at their “house party”, if one of those underage drinkers 
kills or hurts another person.

Texas imposes civil liability against parents or other adult who allow a minor younger than 18 years old to 
consume alcohol on their property. This means that it isn't enough for a parent to simply be willfully 
ignorant about why all their son's friends are cackling hysterically in the kitchen with red solo cups in hand. 
If a parent suspects there is alcohol being consumed at their house, but they intentionally ignore the fact 
that the “ice sculpture” little Johnny is working on for school project is really an ice block shot tequila luge, 
then that would be enough to land that parent in a lot of trouble if:

1. Any minor is injured or dies as a result of drinking on the property;
2. The underage person gets into a fight, falls and hurts him/herself or is sexually assaulted;
3. The minor attending the party damages someone else's property; or
4. The underage person who is drinking on the property, leaves and is involved in a motor 
vehicle accident and causes injury to themselves and others.

So what happens if something goes wrong and a parent gets hit with a lawsuit? One of the biggest 
downers is that the parent's homeowner's policy is likely going to deny coverage as many policies have a 
clause excluding coverage for intentional criminal acts that occur on the premises. This means that the 
parents could have all of their assets exposed to a fairly nasty lawsuit. 
So it sounds like if all is good for the parent if the people consuming alcohol are above 18 years old right? 
Not so fast. The criminal penalties for furnishing alcohol to a minor is a Class A misdemeanor for a single 
offense. A class A misdemeanor carries a punishment range of up to one year in jail and up to a $4,000.00 

About the Author

Tab Lawhorn

Attorney, Tyler Office Tab E. Lawhorn is a principal partner at Lawhorn & Malouf, PLLC in Tyler, Texas. Mr. Lawhorn represents clients in Tyler and throughout Smith County who are victims of a personal injury caused by negligence. He regularly handles matters involving car wrecks, trucking accidents, wrongful death and premises liability.


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