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Act will allow civil lawsuits against social hosts
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A new state law looks to curb the practice of adults knowingly providing alcohol to minors.

While it is already criminally illegal to supply alcohol to a minor, California was one of three states that barred civil lawsuits for the act. The Teen Alcohol Safety Act will now allow civil lawsuits against social hosts in situations where underage drinking leads to injury or death.

The law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2011.

 “This effort is all about deterrence,” said Christopher B. Dolan, Consumer Attorneys of California president. “Our hope is that by strengthening the legal consequences, adults will think twice before providing alcohol to teens. Our goal is simply to save young lives.”

The bill, sponsored by the CAOC and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was inspired by the December 2008 death of Shelby Allen, a 17-year old from Redding. Allen died of alcohol poisoning at a friend’s home, with parents present.

Allen’s parents were unable to seek legal action against the friend’s parents, due to California’s prohibition on such lawsuits.

The new law doesn’t automatically make social hosts liable for injuries or deaths due to underage drinking that occurred under their watch. Plaintiffs would still need to prove the social hosts to be negligent, having breached their duty of care, leading directly to damages.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.