Duggan North Andover
North Andover, Massachusetts
Meaghan Duggan (deceased)
John Zarrella (social host)
John Zarrella of North Andover hosted an birthday party for his daughter Nichole, 18, and her high school friends on September 27, 1997. Meaghan Duggan, 17, attended the party and consumed alcohol to the point of intoxication, then fell down the basement stairs when Nichole tried to stop her from going upstairs at about 4 am. Assuming that Meaghan had simply passed out, her friends continued to party, walk over her, and even move her out of the way. Reportedly, Mr. Zarrella himself even stepped over Meaghan. Meghan lay on the cement basement floor with a severe skull-crushing injury for six to seven hours, at which point someone finally called for help. Ms. Duggan was rushed to Lawrence General Hospital's emergency room, but doctors could not revive her, and she subsequently died.
"I just wanted them to have a safe place to drink," said John Zarrella of his intentions. Unfortunately, due to the inexperience of youth, there truly isn't any "safe place to drink."
Prosecutors wanted to charge John Zarrella with involuntary manslaughter due to the fact that he was aware that persons under 21 were excessively consuming alcohol in his home and that he condoned the behavior, but did not have enough evidence to convict him on that charge. Instead, Mr. Zarella was charged with the misdemeanor of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, not to the delinquency of Meghan. A minor by law is 16 years or younger. Meghan, 17, was not a minor.
The maximum sentence for contributing to the delinquency of a minor is 6 months, Mr. Zarella was sentenced to 100 hours of community service, ordered to take a class in head trauma recognition, and was required to pay $160 in court costs.
A civil suit was brought against John Zarrella, holding him liable for the wrongful death of Ms. Duggan.