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What is host liability?

Hosting the event of the year is often a badge of honor sought after by many individuals who love the thrill of throwing the perfect party. However, hosting a party can have surprising legal implications — especially if there is alcohol served. Once alcohol is introduced into the equation, a host must take certain precautions to protect him or herself or risk litigation if there is an accident, even after the guests leave the event.

Host liability laws create a responsibility on the host to discourage excessive drinking, or drinking of any kind in the case of minors. If you host a party, and someone drinks to excess, then leaves your party and is in an accident, you may be held legally liable for the injuries and damages caused by the accident. While each scenario is different, qualifying for this liability generally requires that a host be aware that the individual in question has had too much alcohol to safely drive away and either encouraged or allowed them to continue to get behind the wheel. Similar liability can be held against a host for other substances as well.

The law becomes even more unforgiving when it comes to minors and alcohol or drug consumption.While many people operate under the assumption that it is better for minors to experiment with alcohol while in a safe place like a friend's home, an adult host or parent who owns a home where a party is occurring may find themselves in hot water if a minor drinks alcohol and then gets in an accident. Generally, the law targets adult hosts who "furnish or serve" alcohol. The difference in these is that furnishing generally means that the adult made the substance available, while serve entails delivering the substance to the minor.

The details can get messy in all of these situations, so if you are concerned about the specifics of your situation, or if you have been charged a crime related to host liability, it is wise to seek out competent legal counsel. An experienced lawyer can help you evaluate your situation and prepare a strong defense to ensure that your rights remain protected.

Source: findlaw, "Social Host Liability," accessed Jan. 26, 2017

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