In a very short, but important opinion, New York State's highest court, the Court of Appeals, handed down a decision that is laden with social implications in a transparent attempt to curb the intoxication of minors, and particularly to reduce the incidence of drunk driving. In short, the Court unmistakably expanded parental liability for negligent supervision under New York law.

In its November 18 opinion in Aquino v. Higgins, the Court stated as follows:

"There is an issue of fact as to whether defendants provided adequate supervision for minor guests who became intoxicated at their home and, in particular, whether defendants properly supervised their departure from the premises (compare Rudden v. Bernstein, 61 AD3d 736, 738 [2d Dept. 2009]). Since the basis of any liability on defendants' part, assuming proximate cause, rests on the duty to supervise (see Appell v. Mandel, 296 AD2d 514 [2d Dept 2002]), rather than their duty as landowners, it is not dispositive that the injury occurred off premises. As a result, summary judgment should not have been granted in defendants' favor and the cause of action for negligent supervision should be reinstated." (emphasis supplied)

In other words, the Court is issuing a clear warning to parents of teens, especially those who host parties at their homes: if anyone becomes intoxicated while on your watch and later injures someone else - even at a different location - as a result,  we are going to hold you - the parent - personally responsible.

I, for one, have no problem with this whatsoever.
Jonathan Cooper
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Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer
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