The entire field of alcohol-related liability has been preempted by the Illinois General Assembly through its passage and continual amendment of the Illinois Dramshop Act, 235 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/6-21 (1996). This legislative preemption extends to social hosts who provide alcoholic beverages to another person, whether that person is an adult, underage, or a minor. No social host liability exists in Illinois under the common law or the Dramshop Act.
Plaintiff's teenage daughter died of alcohol poisoning after drinking an enormous amount on a dare of defendant teenage boys whose defendant father was home throughout these events. The court affirmed dismissal of plaintiff's claims for wrongful death based on negligent provision of alcohol to a minor. On appeal, the court affirmed in part, because Illinois law rejected social host liability, but reversed and remanded for further proceedings regarding plaintiff's claim that defendant sons voluntarily undertook to care for decedent after she passed out. It also suggested that plaintiff be allowed to amend her survival complaint.
Could the defendant father as a social hoist be held liable for the wrongful death of the victim?
Illinois statutory and case law made it clear that there was no social host liability in Illinois beyond the preemptive reach of the Dramshop Act, 235 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/6-21 (1996). There was a narrow exception of arguable viability that applied to fraternity hazing situations, but plaintiff's decedent was not subject to that level of social pressure, nor was there a statutory policy as clearly expressed as the Illinois anti-hazing statute involved. Plaintiff did, however, plead sufficient facts indicating that defendant sons voluntarily undertook to care for decedent after she lost consciousness, and they could be liable for failure to exercise due care in that undertaking.