As a Pennsylvania wrongful death lawyer, I know (not scientifically but with the certainty borne of experience) that this particular story’s roots will have much publicity as the tragedy of the death and the consequence of the criminal charges unfold. But the story will continue long after the publicity dies down as the grief stricken family continues to look for answers and relief in a civil lawsuit.
The defendants will be many: the property owners of the site where the party was held; the young adults who were present and who may have provided the intoxicants; other teens who may have been involved in providing intoxicants; and parents who may have been careless in preventing teens from taking household booze to the party. The multitude of defendants in a case like this reflects the diffuse nature of responsibility for these tragedies.
The truth, of course, is that it is rare for such a tragedy to spontaneously emerge from a first transgression. Usually, there are warning signs along the way. Usually, there are parents who know their son or daughter is stealing booze from the household. Usually, there are parents who know their child is a ringleader in booze/drug activities and fail to take action. Worst of all, usually there are parents who know or should know that their property is being used as a host site for these drug and alcohol parties and do nothing to stop it.
My thoughts are with the family of the young man whose life was tragically ended. They will search for answers and relief. I know that the remedies of the civil justice system are inadequate, time consuming and costly but I also know that this time and effort nevertheless ends with some measure of meaningful relief and can offer closure that the criminal justice system, in which the family is less involved, often fails to provide.
Our hope for others is that this incident causes parents and teens to reconsider the harm that can result from these teen drug and alcohol parties. The complex brew of inexperience, inadequate supervision, intoxicants, vehicles and teen behavior is a noxious one that frequently causes harm in ways large and small.