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Published on Nov 14, 2008 by Edgar Snyder

Party Host Liability: Are You Responsible for Intoxicated Guests?

Party hosts responsible for drunk driving accidents.

Holiday parties and family gatherings are staples of the winter months, and many people look forward to creating memories with their loved ones. These times of laughter and fun can quickly turn sour, however, if one of your guests leaves your home intoxicated and gets behind the wheel.

Many people do not know that like restaurants and bars, individual hosts have responsibilities when it comes to serving alcohol. "Social host" laws make you responsible for the actions of intoxicated guests after they leave your party venue. Currently, 33 states and the District of Columbia have social host laws for guests of all ages, and all 50 states have laws regarding serving alcohol to minors.

According to Pennsylvania social host law, if an underage guest consumes alcohol at a party thrown by an adult and then is involved in an accident, the host of the party can be held liable for the minor's accident.

The circumstances that must be present in order for a social host to be liable for the injury or damage caused by an intoxicated guest are:

  • The host was aware, or should have been aware, that the guest who caused the injury/damage was intoxicated.
  • The host knew that the guest who caused the injury/damage would be driving after they left the gathering.

To keep your guests and others safe if you are serving alcohol at your event you can do the following:

  • Stop serving alcohol after a couple of hours and serve non-alcoholic beverages instead.
  • Make sure there is enough food for your guests to eat while they are drinking.
  • Have designated drivers take intoxicated guests home.
  • Keep cab company phone numbers by the telephone in case there is a guest who should not drive.
  • Stay sober so that you can monitor your guests' sobriety level.
Source: "Don't be a 'pour' host this summer. Make sure your next party doesn't turn into a liability." AAA Motorist. May 2008.
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