Social Host Liability

Social Host Liability

Underage drinking is an incredibly common occurrence in the United States. In fact, over half of the underage population reportedly consumed an alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days. Of those, 43% claimed they drank at a party where the parents were home and were aware of the alcohol consumption. This type of behavior exposes the parents, or any over-age owners of property, to the notion of social host liability. A social host is one who provides alcohol to another in the act of hospitality or allows alcohol to be consumed on the property that he or she owns or controls. The social host may be subsequently liable if an inebriated minor is involved in a car crash or any other activity that leads to the injury or death of a third party. Note that this differs from dram shop liability, where, for example, the owner of a bar or club may be held liable for damage caused after serving a clearly intoxicated individual. Social host liability law is very complex and varies significantly from state to state, and even case to case.

If you or a loved one has been injured in any kind of accident involving a drunk individual who was served alcohol in a private home, it may be possible to recover compensation from the owners of that home.

Please contact our Boston personal injury lawyers at our Boston, Cambridge or Quincy office today at 617-225-2100 for a FREE evaluation of your case.

Massachusetts Law

In Massachusetts, the criminal law states that the act of providing alcohol to an underage guest may be punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or a one year prison sentence. This part of the law is fairly straightforward. However, the civil liability of the host for damage caused by a drunken party-goer is not as clear. In February 2012, the highest court in Massachusetts determined that parents or property owners can only be held liable if they provided the alcohol or were aware that underage drinking took place on their property. In other words, the parents are only responsible for future injuries if they know about the party or played some role in providing alcohol.

Yet, there are a number of circumstances that make the issue much more ambiguous. For example, is leaving a fully stocked liquor cabinet unlocked considered "providing" alcohol? What if the parents are aware that the teenager has a propensity to party and drink excessively? The age of the individuals who get drunk may also play a significant factor. There are often cases where parents will throw a large high school graduation party at their home and provide alcohol intended only for the adults. If a teenager gets drunk at that party and then causes an accident while driving home, the parents still might be held responsible. Under similar circumstances, if that teenager brought his or her own alcohol to the party, the parents are not as likely to be held responsible.

Consult A Lawyer Regarding The Uncertainties Of The Law

The previous examples show the uncertainty in the law of social host liability. Another big case may come about in Massachusetts and change the standard yet again. The Boston personal injury attorneys at Bellotti Law Group, P.C. PC will listen to your story and offer you the best course of legal action. If a parent is held liable for the injuries or death of a third party, the victim may qualify to receive damages for medical care, lost wages, pain and suffering, disfigurement, punitive damages, and more. Contact us today to learn about your options.

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