Manal Kirkakos v. Brandon Phillips; Nancy Dankos v. Linda Stapf
August 5, 2020
The Court of Appeals addressed the potential liability of adults who allow minors to drink on their property in Maryland. There is a common-law principle in Maryland wherein adults can be found liable under the “Statute Rule,” where common law social host liability and breach of duties arise out of a violation of a Maryland criminal law statute. The criminal law statute in play is Crim. Law Art § 10-117 (b) which states that “an adult may not knowingly and willfully allow an individual under the age of 21 years to actually possess or consume an alcoholic beverage at a residence…in which that adult resides.”
Under negligence principles a duty arises from a criminal statute only when the Plaintiff (1) shows the violation of the statute was designed to protect a specific class of persons, of which either the plaintiff is a member and (2) that the violation of the statute proximately caused the injuries complained of.
Within these two cases, the Court of Appeals determined that there were two different classes of persons intended to be protected under the statute. The first class of persons is derived from the legislative history behind the statute. It made clear that the statute sought to prevent harm to underage persons as a result of their consumption of alcohol. The second class of persons intended to be protected by the statute were members of the general public who are placed at risk by minors who have consumed alcohol.
The Court held that subject to exceptions, which are noted in the statute, adults are criminally responsible for underage drinking on their property. Depending on the circumstances, an adult who violates this statute may owe a civil duty to persons injured as a result of such drinking, including the under aged persons consuming the alcohol.