Tis’ the season, and many of you will be hosting, and attending, holiday parties. Several clients have asked whether serving alcoholic beverages exposes them to liability for injury or property damage caused by inebriated guests. The short answer is “No”.
Many states have “dram shop statutes” that impose liability on providers of alcoholic beverages for accidents caused by inebriated patrons. However, these statutes do not, except in limited circumstances, apply to “social hosts”; individuals who are not in the business of serving alcoholic beverages. The limited circumstances are (1) where the social host hired a bartender and charged for each drink; and (2) where the social host served an underage drinker. In the first instance, the social host is acting like a bar, and a higher duty of care might be imposed. Where an accident involves an underage drinker, liability arises because state laws prohibit the service of alcohol to those not of legal drinking age.
Protect yourself while making merry. Don’t serve anyone who is not of legal age, and call a cab for any guest who’s had one too many.