Ask a Lawyer – “Can a party host be held responsible if a guest gets drunk and injures someone as a result?”

It is uncontroversial that a commercial host (someone who is paid to serve alcohol) can be held responsible if their drunken guests injure themselves and others. This is a default legal rule. For example, if a bar over-serves a customer, and the customer then drives drunk and injures someone, the victim can sue the bar owner.

No such default rule exists for social hosts. Thus, someone who is injured by a drunk driver usually cannot sue the host of the party where the guilty driver had gotten drunk. However, sometimes a social host can be held responsible, particularly when the party itself was such that it posed an inherent and obvious risk to the public. For example, someone who hosts a boisterous, out-of-control party for hundreds of teenagers and supplies the guests with generous amounts of alcohol and illegal drugs may well end up being liable when the unruly partygoers injure someone. By contrast, a host of a respectable family dinner will likely not be held responsible if a long-lost cousin sneaks one too many a glass of one before setting to drive home, and injures someone as a result. The absence of a hard-and-fast rule means that the outcome of each case will depend on the specific facts.

If you were injured by a drunk driver, are being sued because of a party that you have hosted, or facing other legal issues, please contact us.

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