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Can Parents be Liable for Serving Too Much Alcohol to a Minor Child at a Graduation Party?

Yes. That was the recent holding of our Hawaii Supreme Court in Ah Mook Sang v. Clark., 130 Hawai’i 282, 308 P.3d 911 (2013). In that case, Makamae Ah Mook Sang was fifteen years old when she attended a party hosted by Michael Clark, who was twenty five years old at the time. Once there, Makamae was allegedly served large amounts of liquor. At some point during the night, she allegedly began to feel ill and then became unconscious, yet neither Michael nor his mother, with whom Michael lived and who was present on the property at the time, rendered or summoned any aid. The next morning, Michael then allegedly assisted in carrying Makamae, who was still unconscious, into her friend’s car and simply directed the friend to leave the property. According to medical personnel, by that time Makamae had likely already died of acute alcohol intoxication. Makamae’s parents brought a negligence case against the Clark family for the death of their daughter.

The Hawaii Supreme Court held that a social host/parent under these circumstances owed a duty of care to a minor when the host places the minor in a position of peril and then did not act to prevent foreseeable harm to the minor that could result and did not act to aid the minor when the harm occurred.

Parents, if you decide to have a graduation party for your child, please plan ahead and take reasonable precautions to protect the safety of your children and their friends.

I would like to extend my congratulations to all of our graduates to be! This is the time of the year for celebration of their hard work and the future that is yet to come. Please be safe in celebrating this important milestone in your children’s lives.

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