Holidays & the Law

‘Tis the season for holiday parties and Christmas get-togethers, but if you plan on hosting a party, you need to be aware of your liabilities as a host. Serving alcohol to underage drinkers, even in your own home, can get you into deep trouble should things go south.

Most social host liability laws are targeted at reducing alcohol-related injuries and deaths by minors. While common law has generally held that social hosts are not liable for injuries or deaths related to alcohol served to guests, there are exceptions.

For instance, if you have a party at your home and underage guests attend with their parents, as a host, you have a responsibility to ensure that the children are not drinking alcoholic beverages. And you may be held liable if a minor drinks alcohol at your party, even though you did not serve the drink to the minor.

Many states have enacted laws holding party hosts liable for any alcohol-related injuries involving minors. This includes injuries to the minor or any other person who may be injured or killed as a result of a minor being served alcoholic beverages.

These laws impose a duty on party hosts (parents or any adult who is in charge) not to furnish or serve alcohol to minors. And there is a distinction between furnishing and serving: furnishing means making alcohol available; to serve is to knowingly and intentionally deliver the alcohol.

The laws vary from state to state, and some states have even passed laws excusing party hosts from any liability. Still, eighteen states now have general social host liability statutes, and nine states have social host laws specific to minors.

As you can see, social host laws are varied and complicated. If you have reason to be involved in a case, contact one of our attorneys to help you navigate your case. Please consult our Online Legal Directory to find an attorney in your area.

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