Parents Beware!

If your child intended to throw an underage party and someone got hurt, there is no insurance coverage.vintage_sports_boxing_match_knockout_punch_This is a parent’s nightmare.  As the mother of five children who are very close in age, I had many worries about teenage drinking parties.  Four were teens at the same time; all were in high school together.  And as a mother with a law degree, in addition to a specialty practice in insurance coverage, the frequent lectures to my children were particularly insistent and dry about the risks and liabilities of such illegal behavior.  We run a benevolent dictatorship at home.

My husband and I would even tease our friends about it.  One night we were out for dinner and drinks with another couple.  As we approached their street late that night to bring them home, there were reams of cars lining the curb.  Some idiot’s kids must be having a party, we all joked!!  What fools, we laughed again!  Can’t they keep a tighter rein on their kids, we all said!

The cars clearly belonged to teenage consumers.  It turned out that the “idiots” were are friends!  Their kids were the ones having a wild, backyard, alcohol-infused, under-aged, soiree.  They scattered like roaches when we exited the car.  Our friends’ children had texted a couple kids, who had texted a few more, who had posted it on twitter, and soon the house and yard were full of teenaged strangers smoking and drinking our friends’ expensive home stash of booze.  Their kids could not control the crowd and felt helpless at what they had started.  It turns out no one is now immune to the swiftness of teen communication.

What if this happens to you?  Would you be covered for a loss if one occurred as a result of the party?  Probably not.  This was exactly the situation in Wisconsin that happened to the Gundrums.  Their 21 year old son held a party in the barn located on their property.  The barn was used to store both personal and business items which were related to Gundrum’s construction company.  Gundrum’s son texted a party invitation that was passed on and on until a crowd of 40 or more showed up to drink and play beer pong.  More than half were underage and were drinking the alcohol supplied by Gundrum’s son.  Soon a fight ensued, started by a well-known trouble maker.  He struck another party goer who was seriously injured.  They both were under 21.

The injured guest sued the Gundrums, who sought coverage under their homeowner’s policy.  The insurance company denied the claim, asserting that there was no injury to the insured and the actions of Gundrum’s son were intentional.  The Supreme Court of Wisconsin agreed.  It found that the acts which lead to the injury were entirely thought out and intended, even though the consequences were not.

I have to quote the court’s language here for you to read, because this could happen to any of us who are parents of rambunctious kids with a hankering for fun:

Gundrum intended to host the party and, based on the experience from an earlier party he hosted, he intended that the “individuals he invited would invite other youths, who would in turn invite others.”  Gundrum intended that minors attend his party.  He “knew and expected that a substantial number of individuals” were under the legal drinking age and that these underage attendees would consume alcohol made available to them at the party.  By making the arrangements for beer pong throughout the evening, Gundrum actively promoted heavy drinking at the party.  In violation of Chapter 125 of the Wisconsin Statutes, Gundrum procured alcohol for Cecil and other minors.  Gundrum knew that Cecil was an underage individual who became belligerent when intoxicated.  Nonetheless, Gundrum “encouraged, advised and assisted Cecil in his consumption of alcohol.”  Gundrum’s actions in hosting an underage drinking party and in procuring alcohol for Cecil and others were intentional.  (Citaions omitted).  Gundrum’s actions were entirely volitional.  He did not host the underage drinking party by mistake, against his will, or by chance.

Id.,  833 N.W.2d at 699-700.

What is the takeaway here?  If it happens on your property, and you intended it to happen, then all consequences that flow from the intentional act will not be coveredParents beware!