Most of the states made laws that hold the party hosts responsible for any alcohol-related injuries as a consequence of providing alcohol to minors. This law includes injuries to the minor and other persons whose injuries or deaths were results from the minor being given with alcohol. There are some states that have general social host liability laws that are not only restricted to the minors but the law extends to anybody who encouraged and permitted to drink excessively until he/she is injured or even killed, or caused the injury or death of another person. The laws also hold social hosts responsible for property damages associated with the incident.
Under the social host laws in several states, the host must recognize that his/her visitor is intoxicated and should not have been served alcohol. These laws are also used to other alcoholic drinks. The individual cases are founded on particular facts around the event or incident.
The social host liability laws are like to the laws known as dram shop laws where they hold bars and alcohol retailers accountable for the injuries and/or deaths associated with the actions of severely intoxicated patrons. There are some states where dram shop laws are applied to businesses that give alcohol, cover social hosts.
Social Host Liability and the Common Law
Basically, common law without specific social host laws holds the social hosts not responsible for the injuries and/or deaths that are associated with alcohol served to visitors, but there are some exceptions. For instance, adults generally have a responsibility to avoid negligence or intentional of providing alcohol to the minors. The hosts will be held accountable for this negligence, particularly when they know or should have known, that the minors would drive a car while under the influence of the alcohol.
It is less common but not unheard of for the court to hold the hosts responsible for the actions of intoxicated adult visitors, even without the specific social host laws. These are cases usually involving drunk driving accidents and focus on the question if the host knew that the visitor was intoxicated and would be driving his car. These legal actions are most of the time, filed as negligence claims.
Adult Responsibility for Underage Drinking
Several social host liability laws aimed toward decreasing the alcohol-associated injuries and deaths of minors. Particularly, these laws oblige the care on party hosts, may be the parents or any adult in charge, not to furnish or serve alcohol to minors. To “furnish” alcohol means to just make them available and to “serve” alcohol is “knowingly and affirmatively deliver” alcohol. Here is a sample of how the social host liability law for minors may be applied:
Both parents permit their son to hold a party at their house while they are around. One of the visitors become transparently intoxicated and although, the parents know that the girl is drunk, they did not do anything to prevent her from leaving the party and driving home alone. However, on the way home, she hits another car that caused the other driver to experience and suffers severe neck injury.
If this setting takes place in a state with social host liability law, or where courts permit the negligence lawsuits under the common law, the injured third-party driver could file charges against the parents who hosted the party and the driver that caused the accident. The host may be held accountable for knowingly supplying the minor with alcohol who intended to drive his/her car afterwards.
State Social Host Laws
The laws that reinforcing liability on social hosts for the alcohol-related deaths and injuries differ from one state to another and there are other states that passed statutes that give immunity to social hosts. There are eighteen states that practice the general social host liability statutes and some nine states have social host laws that are particularly for minors. This data is provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism or NIAAA.
Records show states with the social host liability laws are applied to visitors of all ages: Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin
The statutes of New Jersey may hold the social hosts responsible for the third-party injuries which are caused by the visitor who is “visibly intoxicated” where the “injuries are the result of negligent operation of vehicle by the guest.” The courts of New Jersey hold that “provide” also include self-service by the visitor. But social hosts may not be accountable for the injuries by the visitors, only the third-party.
Here are some states with social host liability laws that are used only to minors: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, Utah, and Wyoming.
The State of Illinois has statute they call “Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility act,” to hold responsible the adults 18 years old and above “who willfully supply alcohol beverages or illegal drugs” to minors or those below 18 years old, for the injuries or deaths that resulted from their impairment. The law includes the intoxicated minor and any third parties, applicable to adult host “who sells, gives, or delivers” unlawful drugs or alcohol.