Florida Sex Assault Lawsuit Accuses Adults of Not Protecting Minor at Alcohol-Fueled Party

The chairman of a pro golf tour and his wife have been named as defendants in a Florida sexual assault lawsuit filed on behalf of a teen girl who alleges she was sexually assaulted twice at their home during an alcohol-fueled teen party. The high school student, a friend of the chairman’s stepdaughter, reportedly attended the outdoor pool party in September 2021 at their Palm Beach Gardens mansion, where she says alcohol was being freely served to minors.Florida sexual assault lawsuit underage party

At one point, according to her lawsuit, the girl says she was sexually assaulted by two individuals (identified only by their initials in the filing), who were also both underage. The assaults reportedly took place on a grassy area near the pool. At the time, she was allegedly unable to even stand on her own due to intoxication.

The girl and her parents accuse the homeowners of negligence and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. They allege the hosts breached their duty of care by not safeguarding or preventing injury to her health and wellbeing – including the abusive conduct of other minor invitees that was at least partially the direct result of having alcohol unlawfully served to them.

Suing for Florida Sex Assault Using Social Host Liability Law

In Florida, adults may be liable for failing to protect minor children from foreseeable risks while in their care. Illegally serving alcohol to minors in one’s home can give rise to a specific type of liability called “social host liability.” It’s codified in F.S. 768.125, otherwise referred to as the state’s dram shop law.

According to the statute, a person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to someone of lawful drinking age (21) generally isn’t liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from that person’s intoxication. HOWEVER, if a person willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcohol to someone who is under the age of 21, they may be liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of that minor or other person.

Usually, this statute is used to pursue civil litigation against bars and restaurants following a serious car crash with an underage drunk driver. But the language doesn’t expressly limit legal action to that scenario. It has been used against adults hosting parties where minors are served alcohol.

Suing for Florida Sexual Assault Using Premises Liability Law

Another basis for third-party Florida sexual assault lawsuits is premises liability law.

Essentially, those who own and manage property and welcome guests onsite owe those guests a duty of care to prevent foreseeable harm. Usually, premises liability cases are pursued against businesses that welcome members of the public onsite for their own financial benefit. (In that case, they owe invitees the highest duty of care.) But it can also be used against homeowners, particularly when they welcome unaccompanied minors to their residence.

Property owners must take reasonable action to inspect/discover/correct possible hazards in the areas to which a guest may have access. They must also take reasonable steps to ensure a safe environment. In the case of a business, that could mean hiring adequate security on site. In the case of a homeowner with underage guests attending a party, it could mean making sure there’s adequate adult supervision. Serving alcohol to minors at a poorly supervised pool party could certainly be grounds to assert negligence on the basis of premises liability – a failure to ensure the environment was reasonably safe for guests.

If you have questions about your legal options following a Florida sexual assault, we can help. Our lawyers represent survivors of sexual assault in Florida civil litigation. We’ll assess your case viability and provide you with insight to help you make informed choices about your next steps.

Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.

Additional Resources:

Greg Norman, wife accused of negligence in civil sexual assault lawsuit in Florida, June 16, 2023, By Steven Gardner, USA Today

More Blog Entries:

Can Schools Be Liable for Florida Sexual Abuse Facilitated by District Laptops? June 1, 2023, West Palm Beach Sexual Assault Lawyer Blog

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