Social Host Liability

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The final quarter of the year brings with it Holiday parties and family gatherings.  If you are hosting a party this Holiday season there are several things you should know about social host liability.  In some states, social hosts who serve alcohol to their guests may be held liable for personal injuries and property damage resulting from motor vehicle accidents if: (1) the host continued to serve alcohol to person that he/she knew or should have known was intoxicated; and (2) they knew the intoxicated person would be driving after being served.  These laws are known as Dram Shop laws.

            Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop Act applies only to liquor retailers who are licensed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.  The Pennsylvania Dram Shop Act does not apply to “social hosts” who serve alcohol to persons over the age of 21.  In the case of social hosts, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that “in the case of an ordinary able-bodied man, it is consumption of alcohol, rather than furnishing of alcohol, which is proximate cause of any subsequent occurrence.” To date, No Pennsylvania court has held a social host liable for serving persons over the age of 21 even when the person is visibly intoxicated. 

            However, Pennsylvania law imposes liability on a “social host” for injuries to minors and third parties that results from their “knowingly” serving alcohol to a person under the age of 21.  There is no such liability when a minor serves another minor and injuries result. Pennsylvania courts have resisted the expansion of social host liability. One such test case, sought liability against Parents  who stored alcohol in unlocked cabinet in their house and knew minors were gathering at their house.  The court refused to expand “social host” liability and called the parents having an unlocked liquor cabinet “a perfectly mundane” activity, which did not rise to the level of “knowingly” serving a minor alcohol.   

          This blog is for information purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice.  If you have a legal issue you should contact me or another attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation and the factual background which will directly influence the legal outcome. Call or click the banner below to visit my website.   


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