Who Is a Social Host?
The definition of a Social Host varies from state to state, but generally a social host is one who:
- Furnishes alcohol as an act of hospitality with no motive of pecuniary gain (is not a commercial enterprise, such as a bar or restaurant)
- Has no special relationship, such as an employer, with the guest
- Serves alcohol or condones the consumption of alcohol on property that the host controls. For example, in Massachusetts, simply allowing the consumption of alcohol is sufficient.
The property is often a home, but it can also be a hotel room, beach, boat, or any other property over which the host has control.
So What Is Social Host Liability?
Social Host Liability expands the legal responsibility for the consumption of alcohol beyond the person who consumes it to those who furnish it. The intoxicated guest remains liable to persons injured as a result of his actions, but now shares that liability with the host. In many states the social host may also be liable for injuries suffered by the intoxicated guest. Imposing liability on the host reflects the modern view that the provider of alcohol has an obligation to the public to reduce risky behavior by furnishing alcohol safely and responsibly.
The criminal and civil cases discussed all involve minors who have consumed alcohol. The social hosts may be either adults or minors. Most involve catastrophic injury or death, but some simply illustrate the application of the law to common social situations where the parties were lucky that no tragedy occurred.
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