Audrey King was only 17 years old when she died in a car crash on March 30, 2009. King had been drinking with friends at the Bastrop home of former Chief Justice Tom Phillips of the Texas Supreme Court, when she accepted a ride from another intoxicated teen. The car she was in veered off the rural road and crashed into a stand of trees.
Audrey's parents, Bobby and Cheryl King, have now filed a wrongful death suit against Tom Phillips and his wife Lyn under a little-known Texas law that allows parties to seek damages against adults who provide alcohol or allow it to be served to minors at their homes. The suit alleges that the Phillips allowed their son, Daniel, to routinely use their home as the site of underage drinking parties.
Underage Drinking in Texas
Unfortunately, underage drinking in Texas is a serious problem. According to the 2004 Texas School Survey of Substance Use Among Students in Grades 7 through 12, teens abuse alcohol more than any other substance. 68 percent of the students surveyed reported lifetime alcohol use and 33 percent reported current use. Nearly half the students surveyed reported that alcohol was used at one or more of the parties they had attended.
Texas' Social Host Law
To address the alarming prevalence of alcohol use among teens, the 2005 Texas legislature passed a social host law. Under the law, adults who allow minors other than their own children to use alcohol on their property face both criminal and civil penalties.
Proponents of the law hoped the possibility of serious penalties would deter parents from allowing minors to use their homes for parties. Penalties may include a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $4000 fine, in addition to civil liability for damages the intoxicated minors cause to themselves, others or property.
Even if the Kings' lawsuit is unsuccessful, it has raised awareness of both the problems associated with underage drinking and the protections available to injured parties under Texas law. To learn more, contact an experienced Texas personal injury attorney.