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Teen Dies After Alcohol-Related Wreck. Who's to Blame?

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A Gates County teenager is dead after an-alcohol related single car accident on Nov. 7, and now charges are being filed against the clerks that sold him alcohol. The Virginian-Pilot reports that Cody Francis Herman, 19, was illegally sold alcoholic bevarages on Nov. 7 at the Family Foods store in Sunbury, NC. After going to two house parties, Cody lost control of his vehicle on Gates Bank Road, and hit two trees. The clerk of Family Foods, Joyce Wilson Parker, has been charged with selling alcohol to a minor, and the store itself was charged with an administrative violation.

Criminal charges aren’t the only thing that alcohol merchants have to worry about, though. In certain circumstances, businesses that sell alcohol can be held liable for damages in civil court for injuries or death that their drinks contribute to. Lawyers call this “dramshop law.” My firm has pursued merchants and bars for irresponsibly serving alcohol to people who later injured themselves or others. In the case of a minor, any serving of alcohol is irresponsible.

But what about the house parties he went to? We don’t know all the facts yet about where Cody drank and who was at these parties, but there are similar laws that hold people responsible for the drinking that takes place at their houses and the consequences it can have. Lawyers call this “social host liability.”

In any case, this is a tragedy for the community and Cody’s family, who asked that his wrecked vehicle be displayed at the local high school over the winter as a warning to others. I hope everyone can heed that warning this holiday season.