Throwing a holiday party at your home or for your office is a great way to celebrate the season and to show friends, family, and co-workers how important they are to you. If you have a party, however, you take on some liability risks. In Massachusetts, social host laws impose responsibility on those throwing parties. Social host laws mean if you host an event and serve alcohol, you could find yourself faced with a civil lawsuit against you based on the actions of your guests.
Victims who are hurt by impaired drivers benefit greatly from social host laws, because these laws give them another potential defendant who they can pursue a claim for compensation against.
How to Reduce Boston DUI Crash Risks at Holiday Parties
Social host laws say that a homeowner, property owner, or renter who throws a party can be held civilly liable for drunk driving accidents caused by guests if:
- The host provided alcohol to the guest, but not within the context of a formal business relationship. For example, the host is not a liquor store, bar, or other commercial enterprise.
- The host provided alcohol or allowed guests to consume alcohol on the premises where the party is taking place.
- The intoxicated person was just a normal guest at the party, not an employee or agent of the party host.
Social host liability was created by a 1984 case, McGuiggan v. New England Telephone and Telegraph Co. In this case, a driver attended a graduation party, became intoxicated, and then killed an innocent third party. The court ruled that the host who had thrown the party and who had served alcohol had certain legal duties, which were breached. The social host had a duty to control the supply of liquor, if the host was serving alcohol of his own.
Because these social host laws now exist to make party hosts responsible for any injuries which drunk guests cause, it is more important than ever for anyone throwing a party to try to prevent people from becoming dangerously impaired. Hosts should:
- Limit the amount of alcohol being served. While you want guests to have a good time, you don’t need to have a full unlimited open bar for everyone. You may wish to limit how much you serve in general, or may wish to stick with beer and wine and not serve any hard alcohol at all.
- Avoid serving any alcohol at all to someone who is under 21. It can actually be a crime to furnish alcohol to a minor, even if you provide the alcohol as part of a party in your home.
- Take keys away from guests who are planning on drinking. You can make clear the keys will be taken away at the beginning of the night so no one ends up getting behind the wheel because they aren’t thinking clearly.
By following these best practices for throwing a successful party, you can help to ensure you don’t find yourself liable for losses and no innocent victims get hurt.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a Boston drunk driving accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
More Blog Entries:
Report: Massachusetts is Mid-Level on Drunk Driving Prevention, June 19, 2015, Boston Drunk Driving Injury Lawyer Blog