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The holiday season means party time for many people. However, hosts who serve alcohol should take steps to limit their liquor liability and make sure they have the proper insurance.
Social host liability, the legal term for the criminal and civil responsibility of a person who furnishes liquor to a guest, can have a serious impact on party throwers. Social host liability, also known as “Dram Shop Liability” laws vary widely from state to state, but 43 states including New York have them on the books. Most of these laws also offer an injured person, such as the victim of a drunk driver, a method to sue the person who served the alcohol. There are circumstances under these laws where criminal charges may also apply. Even if the Dram Shop Act does not apply, a host can still be civilly liable under ordinary negligence standards.
“Because you can be held legally responsible for your guests’ actions after they leave your party, hosts need to be particularly careful,” said Ellen Melchionni, president of the NYIA. “While a social host is not liable for injuries sustained by the drunken guest (as they are also negligent), the host can be held liable for third parties and may even be liable for passengers of the guest who have been injured in their car.”
Whether you are hanging out with a small group of friends for cocktails or throwing a big family bash, remember that a good host is a responsible host and needs to take steps to ensure guests get home safely if they have been drinking.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Guests
If you plan to serve alcohol at a holiday party, the following tips promote safe alcohol consumption and reduce your social host liability exposure: