A Missouri woman has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the case of a fatal car accident that she was not directly involved in.
The woman in this case is accused of giving alcohol to underage guests at a party in late 2009. One of those guests later got into a car accident that killed the passenger in another car. At the time of the accident the driver's blood alcohol content was 2 ½ times the legal limit in Missouri. The driver pled guilty to assault and involuntary manslaughter.
Missouri law has not traditionally assigned criminal liability to third parties who supplied alcohol, which is known as social host liability in civil cases. The theory rests on the idea that individuals and businesses are responsible for foreseeable injuries that occur as a result of unlawful drinking, which generally means underage drinkers or people who were served after they were very intoxicated. Social host liability has not been applied to a criminal case in Missouri in the past.
Prosecutors are also seeking to hold the woman responsible for criminal negligence for serving the underage driver alcohol and not preventing the person from driving or alerting police to the illegal activity.
Her attorney said that prosecutors cannot prove that the woman caused the accident and pointed out that Missouri has not held people responsible for a third party's actions. Indeed, the case that the prosecutor cited to support the charges was from Pennsylvania and is not applicable law for a Missouri case but may serve as guidance for a judge.
The case is being heard in Jackson County court.
Source: Associated Press, "Mo. case tests party host's role in fatal crash" June 25, 2012