Today Your Legal Corner will share “Summer Parties and a Social Host’s Liability.”
What better way to shed the dreariness of winter and welcome the brightness of warmer weather, than by hosting a festive celebration. Yet, before serving that first summer cocktail, it is important to be aware of your potential liability as a social host in the State of New Jersey.
What is a social host? A social host is any person who by express or implied invitation invites another into their home and who legally provides alcoholic beverages to their guest.
Social Host liability
As with any good host, it is important to pay attention to your guests. If serving alcohol at your party, make sure food is also provided. It is important that non-alcoholic beverages are available as well. If there are underage guests, make sure they know alcohol is off limits to them.
Should you serve alcohol to your social guest to the point that they are visibly intoxicated and your social guest subsequently causes injury to a third party (via drinking and driving), you may be held accountable under social host liability laws for the injuries or damages sustained to any third party as a result of your visibly intoxicated guest’s actions.
Significantly, New Jersey Courts have held that social guests who serve themselves at a party will not absolve a social host from legal responsibility. This is why it is vital to pay attention to your guest’s behavior.
Still, generally there is not social host liability for injuries sustained to the social guest after drinking. However, when the social guest injures a third party, you could be held responsible under social host liability laws if the social guest was served or drank while visibly intoxicated.
Dram Shop Liability
In contrast, party liability is expanded with a bar or restaurant under the Dram Shop laws. In a Dram Shop case known as Voss v. Tranquilino, the New Jersey Supreme Court has held that even a bar or restaurant patron charged and found guilty of driving under the influence could still bring a claim against the bar or restaurant under New Jersey law.
In Voss, the patron argued that being served while he was visibly intoxicated was the reason for his subsequent motor vehicle accident. The Court ruled that the DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) law did not preclude a patron from filing a suit for injuries under the Dram Shop law for an intoxicated person. It will be up to the court to apportion party liability between the bar and the intoxicated patron.
The goals for Social Host and Dram Shop laws are to prevent drunk driving and minimize fatalities. So remember, as the weather warms, be mindful of your social host responsibility when it comes to serving alcohol and hosting summer gatherings!
Till next time, God bless, keep smiling, when Your Legal Corner will discuss “Underage Drinking.”
Victoria M. Dalton is an attorney with the law firm of Hoffman DiMuzio.
For questions, contact Victoria at [email protected].
Please note that Your Legal Corner was created to provide educational articles about the law and is not legal advice.