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SJC Rules For Teen Host In Underage Drinking Case 27:59
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(Flickr/ jxb345)
(Flickr/ jxb345)

Teenage house parties. For some high schoolers, they are something of a rite of passage - immortalized on television and in movies. But for parents, the underage drinking party is a very real nightmare. One that's led to a series of legal cases, the most recent of which was just decided by the state's highest court.

Here are the facts of the case. In 2007, 19-year-old Jessica Simpson threw a party at her house in Wrentham. Her father was out of town that night. Simpson invited friends, including 19-year-old Christopher Dunbar, who brought his girlfriend 16-year-old Rachel Juliano.

The party was BYOB, or "bring your own beer," so Dunbar brought a 30-pack of beer and a bottle of rum. After drinking for a while, he and Juliano got in a fight. Simpson, the party host, offered to drive the two home, but Dunbar insisted he drive.

Then, the nightmare all parents fear came true. Dunbar was driving 96 miles per hour when he plowed his car into a utility pole. He was seriously injured, while Juliano suffered terrible brain damage.

Dunbar pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, but the case went much further.

Juliano's parents sued Simpson, the 19-year-old who threw the party, for negligence under what's known as the Massachusetts "social host" law. They claimed that by allowing her friends to bring alcohol and drink under her roof, Simpson, too, was liable for Juliano's catastrophic injuries.

On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its ruling and said Simpson was not responsible for Juliano's injuries.

Guests:

  • David Frank, reporter, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
  • Dr. John Knight, director, Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at Children's Hospital.
  • Dr. Barbara Greenberg, clinical psychologist and teen doctor for Psychology Today.

This segment aired on February 22, 2012.

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