Home Bars & Parties

Home Bars

Until recently the home bar owner never considered a quality breath alcohol tester as essential equipment for the home bar. Today the quality breath alcohol tester is taking its place along side the jigger, shaker, muddler, juicer, strainer, and corkscrew. Whether it is a home bar, a fancy cocktail party or a summer backyard Bar-B-Q, the party giver (social host) has a responsibility to keep their guests and friends safe and faces possible legal consequences for not doing so.

Many are not fully aware of the personal legal consequences they can face if a guest who drinks too much is later involved in an motor vehicle accident. In a recent IIABA survey less than one-third of those surveyed appeared to know that a social host can be found liable in many states for the subsequent actions of a guest who has been permitted to become intoxicated.

Social Host Liability

States with social host liability: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

States with no social host liability: Arkansas, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia.

Source: Insurance Information Institute, as of October 2008

The term "social host" means anyone who hosts a social gathering, including private individuals, employers, and organizations.

In many states the consequences of over-serving alcohol extend to the host. Social hosts can be legally liable if they recklessly encourage a guest to continue drinking when it is clear they are drunk. Most states also place liability on social hosts in situations where alcohol is served to a minor or where the host should have recognized and stopped serving an obviously intoxicated guest.

A social host may be liable for third party property damage and personal injury where the following conditions are met:

  1. The social host served alcohol to a person(s)
  2. S/he knew or should have known the person(s) were intoxicated, and
  3. S/he knew the person(s) would be driving afterwards.

Typically, social host liability is limited to injuries and property damage suffered by third parties. A social host is not generally liable for injuries sustained by the drunken guest. The guest cannot sue the person who served him alcohol because the guest is also negligent. The social host may be liable, however, for injuries sustained by passengers of the guest, unless the jury finds that the passengers were negligent in riding with the guest.

Potential social hosts should check to see if their homeowner's or business insurance covers third party liquor liability. If not, it may be possible to purchase insurance coverage for special events such as company banquets, holiday celebrations and personal functions such as weddings.

Hosting Teen & Underage Drinking Parties

Individuals who are responsible for underage drinking events on property they own, lease, or control can be held liable in a court of law. Parents, neighbors, older friends and siblings can be arrested if they allow a drinking party to occur with their knowledge, whether or not they are serving, or purchased the alcohol. If they allow the drinking and also provide the alcohol they may be in violation of two distinct laws: furnishing alcohol to a minor and allowing underage drinking to occur on property they control.

For example, a social host may allow a minor to drink alcohol after which the minor causes a motor vehicle crash that injures an innocent third party. In this situation, the social host may be prosecuted by the State under a criminal statute and face a fine or imprisonment for the criminal violation. In a State that provides for private party civil liability, the injured third party could also sue the host for monetary damages associated with the vehicle crash.

"Friends don’t let friends drive drunk" is a slogan of the National Highway Safety Transportation Association and the Ad Council in their recent campaign against drunk driving. It couldn’t be more appropriate than for social hosts everywhere.

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