Hosting a social event should be fun and entertaining, but there is nothing entertaining about an underage drinking party. Due to the problems of underage drinking and of drinking and driving, many states have enacted laws that put more onus on parents to ensure that their child isn’t hosting parties that could have some potentially disastrous consequences. It isn’t just underage drinking, however; if you are hosting a social event and someone gets inebriated while at your home, you could be held liable if someone gets hurt whether or not it is your fault, even if you aren’t there.
Some states have general social host liability laws that aren’t just related to minors or the distribution of alcohol to them. In some states, anyone who serves another person alcohol when hosting a party or event can be held liable if things go wrong and someone is injured. If you are hosting a party, it is important for you to understand that it might be your responsibility to cut off a guest before they get intoxicated and get behind the wheel, or their actions might become your problem.
Social host laws hold individuals responsible if they host a party where someone becomes intoxicated; the host can be accountable for property damage related to either the injury of the person who was driving or to the person that they injure while driving. According to a personal injury lawyer Atlanta, to be held to social host liability, the host must have been aware that the person was inebriated, but did nothing to stop them or continued to allow them to drink. It isn’t just alcohol that is the target of social host laws; illegal drug use and other intoxicants available at someone else’s home might make the host liable for any resulting injuries.
Social host liability is very similar to “dram shop laws.” Dram shop laws hold alcohol retailers, bars and restaurants liable for over-serving a guest. If they serve someone too much alcohol and an accident results, they can be liable for damages. When it comes to severely intoxicated clients, the bartender or waitstaff has to be aware that someone is intoxicated and know when to say “when.” In some states, dram shop and social host laws are combined and fall under the same category.
Common law and social host liability
Although common law states that hosts are not responsible for the poor actions of their guests, there are a few exceptions. There are instances which show negligence on the host’s part. For example, if an adult holds a party at their house and knowingly serves alcohol to minors, that could be grounds for social host liability.
It is also the case that if you have someone at your party and you continue to serve them or even encourage them to drink, you might be held liable if they get behind the wheel and get into a DUI accident where someone is injured or even killed. If you are serving shots or inviting your guests to have “just one more,” then you are actually contributing to the injury, according to social host liability law.
What is the extent of liability for adults and underage drinking?
Most social host laws are in place to target the distribution of alcohol to minors that could potentially lead to death or injury. They are used to impose a standard of “reasonable care” that is placed on someone who is monitoring or watching minors at their home or residence. There is a difference between the responsibility that an adult would have if a child were to steal alcohol without the adult’s knowledge, versus them supplying or serving alcohol to minors.
Social host liability and laws vary from state to state, with some being more specific and punitive than others. In general, although you aren’t responsible for the actions of someone else when they make poor decisions, if you were found negligent by contributing to the accident or serving minors, alcohol and putting them at risk of making dangerous decisions, then the liability might be on you. It is important not only to know what the laws are in your state, and to monitor minors if you have are hosting a party or social event at your home and you notice that someone has had too much to drink. It might not just be their problem; they might make it yours too.