Over half the states have enacted Social Host Liability Laws to hold social-hosts potentially liable if they serve alcohol to a minor who then becomes involved in an accident that causes injury to a third. Other states hold social-hosts potentially liable under existing Dram Shop Laws.
In nearly all states, serving alcohol to a minor is also a misdemeanor offense. Penalties may include fines, driver license suspension and even imprisonment.
What Does a Victim Need to Prove to Hold the Social Host Liable?
The social host may be held liable for the injuries if the victim can prove that the host knowingly served alcohol to an underage person, and that the liquor was the proximate cause of the accident. The social host may be responsible for the minor's injuries as well as any other third party's injuries.
What Does Proximate Cause Mean?
Proximate cause means that there is a direct relationship between the alcohol and the accident; the accident would have never happened if the host had not provided the alcohol to the minor.
Can a Parent Serve Alcohol To His or Her Own Child?
It is not illegal for a parent to serve alcohol to his or her own child or to an underage spouse if it occurs in the privacy of their own home. Some states also permit a child to drink alcohol at a private party as long as the child's parent is present. However, parents may not buy alcohol for their underage children at a commercial establishment like a bar or restaurant.
If the child is then involved in an accident that causes injuries to a third party, the parent may still potentially be civilly liable to the victim under the Social Host Liability laws.
What Can You Do If You Are Sued For Providing Alcohol To a Minor?
If you are arrested or sued for providing alcohol to a minor or intoxicated person who later injured a third party, you should speak to a lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses and the complicated legal system.