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Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Legal
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I am a 19 year old college student home for summer. I allowed

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I am a 19 year old college student home for summer. I allowed several of my friends to come to my family's cabin with me (which is an irrevocable trust, we have no ownership) with out permission. Several people I did not know also showed up. I did not supply any of the alcohol or marijuana but both were present. Approx 4 were over 21. 20 were between the ages of 18-20. One was under 18. People showed up around 11:00 pm and were gone by 3:00 am. At approx 3:30 am a car from the party got into a rollover accident and one girl who was 18 was air lifted to a Seattle Hospital and died 6 days later. Driver plus one passenger were taken to local hospital then released, then the driver was taken to jail. Driver was charged with a DUI and none of the three in the car had their seat belts on. Am I liable for all or part of this? What could happen to me? What should I be doing or not be doing? I am very sad and very scared.
Hello friend. My name is XXXXX XXXXX welcome to JustAnswer. Please note: (1) this is general information only, not legal advice, and, (2) there may be a slight delay between your follow ups and my replies.

I am very sorry for your situation. You should not get into any legal trouble here. Allow me to explain why.

There are two levels of liability here - criminal and civil. Criminally, you are likely not liable. Civilly, same, although the family of the deceased girl can attempt something.

1) You may be thinking about "dram shop law." This is when a alcohol-selling establishment can get into trouble for failing to cut off someone who is visibly intoxicated, and then they drive off and get into an accident. However, you were not an "establishment," so this does not apply to you.

2) There is a "social host law" that is somewhat similar, and that is under Washington's §66.44.200. See here. However, this has to do with selling liquor to minors. You did not do so.

3) The driver is the one that will likely bear the brunt of the criminal liability here. The fact that they were not wearing seat-belts is their own fault.

4) The family of the deceased girl may attempt to come after you (civilly), but this is unlikely. To sue someone in Court, one needs causation (i.e. if not for, then...), and there can be no intervening cause between what you did and what happened. But, even if you had alcohol at your party, they chose to drink it, they chose to ride without a seat-belt, and it was the driver's fault that they crashed. In other words, it is highly unlikely that you would be liable, or the trust, etc.

Just in case, someone in your situation may wish to:

1) Avoid making statements without an attorney present to either the police or attorneys for any party in association with this incident; and
2) Not to contact any of the parties, and allow an attorney to do so.

Very likely, nothing will happen here. Just in case, an attorney is recommended to take and make statements. May I recommend Martindale Hubble - here. The attorneys are vetted and qualified. You should be able to find an attorney you are confident with and whom you can trust, and who is available ASAP.

Please note: I aim to give you genuine information and not necessarily to tell you only what you wish to hear. Please, rate me on the quality of my information and do not punish me for my honesty. I understand that hearing things less than optimal is not easy, and I empathize.

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