Lake Forest mom settles in underage drinking lawsuit

Published: 2/11/2009 4:22 PM | Updated: 2/11/2009 5:36 PM

A judge has approved a $2.5 million partial settlement of a lawsuit against a mother accused of allowing underage drinking in her Lake Forest house in 2006.

George Baldwin, now 22, of Lake Forest, wound up a paraplegic from the injuries he suffered in the wreck after getting a ride home from another underage guest who consumed alcohol while at Lauralee Pfeifer's home, said his attorney, Patrick Salvi.

Salvi filed the complaint against Pfeifer and the car's driver, William Klairmont, in Lake County circuit court.

At a hearing Wednesday, Lake County Circuit Judge Christopher Starck approved the $2.5 million settlement in the Pfeifer portion of the suit, while the complaint against Klairmont and his insurance companies is set to be heard March 2.

"I think the message should be there can be no tolerance of underage drinking in your home whatsoever," Salvi said.

Pfeifer's lawyer, Michael Borders, said his client didn't admit fault in the case, and the settlement came at the urging of her insurance company. The $2.5 million payment represents the entire amount of Pfeifer's homeowner's insurance policy.

Salvi, who was Baldwin's lead attorney in the lawsuit, said Pfeifer's daughters, then 16 and 17, invited his client and other teenage friends for a party Nov. 19, 2006. He contended that despite repeated opportunities, Lauralee Pfeifer never tried to stop the teens from drinking beer and becoming intoxicated in an upstairs bedroom.

But Borders said what went on in the home wasn't a party.

He said Baldwin and Klairmont at the time were boyfriends of Pfeifer's daughters and had visited the house many times. He said the four teens sneaked the beer into the bedroom.

"She knew they were up there," Borders said. "She didn't know they were drinking."

Borders said the fact the teenagers were in Pfeifer's house on a Sunday evening added to the lack of suspicion about alcohol.

Documents filed by Salvi in the case claimed teens left the Lake Forest house when Pfeifer's husband, Brandt, arrived. Salvi said Baldwin got a ride with Klairmont, who crashed into a utility box on northbound Waukegan Road in Lake Bluff.

Salvi said Klairmont was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. Criminal charges weren't lodged against Lauralee Pfeifer.

Although Baldwin consumed beer at the party, Salvi said, he wasn't charged with underage drinking and it is not an issue in the lawsuit. Baldwin lives with his father and attends College of Lake County.