Mom Sues Teens in Binge Drinking Case

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study confirms that the most commonly abused substance by teenagers is not tobacco or illegal drugs -- it's alcohol.

Now a Massachusetts mom is fighting back after her daughter paid the ultimate price.

Taylor Meyer was an honor student, an athlete, a young woman with a bright future. But one tragic mistake cut the 17-year-old's promising life short, and sent shockwaves through the small Massachusetts town of Norfolk.

Jay Beausang, of Norfolk, told CBS News, "As long as I live in this neighborhood I won't forget about it."

In October 2008, Taylor and a group of friends decided to celebrate after a high school football game. They attended a couple of house parties, and then walked through an abandoned airport to continue their night out.

Meyer and her friends ended up in a wooded area popular for teenage drinking. Around 11 p.m., she wandered off toward a swamp. It was the last time she was seen alive.

"There's no place in these small towns for these kids to go," Beausang said, "so they go into the woods and they have a few drinks and unfortunately this one ended up in a tragedy."

After her mother reported her missing, a massive search was launched. Three days later, Taylor's body was recovered from the frigid waters.

Norfolk, Mass. Police Chief Charles Stone said, "We were hoping for the best possible outcome and in the end that wasn't the case, it was the worst possible nightmare."

According to a 2006 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, 19 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 20 reported binge drinking. And annually, according to the National Institutes of Health, 5,000 people under 21 die from alcohol related causes.

Now more than a year later, Taylor's mother Kathi, is on a crusade. She's filed a civil lawsuit against seven people who she believes bear some responsibility for her daughter's death. Five of them are under the age of 18.

Wendy Murphy, an attorney told CBS News, "It's hard to blame another kid who's a binge drinker for the harm done to another kid who's a binge drinker. It's sort of a group responsibility."

However, Meyer is going forward with the case. The lawsuit itself calls for unspecified monetary damages, but for this grieving mother, the lawsuit is more about accountability and saving lives.

Kathi Meyer and her attorney, Richard Campbell appeared on "The Early Show."

Meyer said she's filing the lawsuit -- almost a year and a half later -- because of accountability.

"The people involved in the circumstance of Taylor's passing definitely did not realize how much they contributed to it," she said. "And their actions haven't spoken in that manner."

Five of the defendants are kids who were drinking just like Taylor was.

"Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez said, "Some people might say why are they anymore responsibility than she?"

"They're not more responsible than she is," Meyer said. "But they definitely are as responsible as she, and she definitely has paid the ultimate cost. And there definitely is a substantial contributing factor to it, and I don't feel that those people have learned even as of today."

Meyer said she had experiences with her daughter and these friends before. Meyer said she'd caught her daughter drinking about a year before her death.

"As her mom," Meyer said, "I let her stay at the police station for a long period of time -- more than most parents would. And when I picked her had up, she was grounded for 30 days. And we spent time together, we did everything together, and I would have thought that that would have been, you know, substantial enough for her to realize not to do it, but unfortunately, that ultimately wasn't case."

Meyer said she would have done many things differently if she could go back.

"I wish I had had access to her Facebook. I wish I had had every single one of her friends' phone numbers," she said. "So many things you could say would-have, should-have, could-have. And I talk to (other parents) so they won't have this loss because it's absolutely nothing that someone should have to go through."

Meyer said she's taking a difficult step with this lawsuit.

"Unfortunately, I'm born and raised in my town, so the majority of all those kids that were there that night have been Taylor's friends since they were five. And I've said to parents, for me to bring this up and take this stance with it is not an easy stance to take by any means. But it's something that has to be done because when I go and speak to kids at schools they always ask me, 'What happened to those kids?' And I have to look and them and tell them they had a $50 fine and eight hours of community service."

"I don't think our kids are learning from that," she said. "...My whole point of doing this is so that there's not another mom sitting up here suffering a loss because of a stupid decision."

Meyer said Taylor's story is already having a positive impact.

"In one of the schools I spoke to, a parent's son was out drinking and those kids picked up that cell phone when they couldn't get him to talk. They picked up that cell phone and they called their mom and said, 'He's here, what can we do?' And that mother called me and said, 'You know, my son is definitely alive because of your daughter.' (She said those kids) said on that phone, 'If that mom hadn't told Taylor's story, we would have left him.' And I know he's alive today because of it. So she has a legacy already."

Meyer added that the civil suit is unfortunately one of the ways it will make a difference.

"Everybody says you know, 'It's about the money.' We're suing 17-year-old kids. It's not about the money. It's about the principle and owning the accountability, and hopefully they'll make a change."
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