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The holiday season is upon us. If you will be hosting parties or family gatherings at your home and serving alcohol, it is important to know how to be a good social host.  Otherwise, you may be liable for the negligent actions of your drunk guests.

What is Social Host Liability?

Social host liability is similar to dram shop liability, but does have some major differences. First, almost every state has some form of dram shop legislation, while only some states have social host legislation.  Secondly, dram shop imposes liability only on sellers of alcohol, such as bars, liquor stores and restaurants, while social host laws impose liability on anyone who provides alcohol to guests, if that guest goes on to injure someone while intoxicated.

Any occasion can give rise to social host liability – not just a party. It applies to any homeowner, renter of property or really anyone who provides alcohol to a guest who gets drunk and goes on to injure another person.  The majority of states, Missouri and Illinois included, impose this law on hosts only if they give alcohol to a person under the legal drinking age of 21.

There are 2 types of social host cases:

  1. A ‘first party’ social host case exists when the injured plaintiff is the person that was given the alcoholic beverages. Most states don’t allow ‘first party’ cases unless the plaintiff is a minor.
  2. A ‘third party’ social host case exists when the injured person is someone other than the drunk person. This means if you were injured by a drunk driver and the driver got drunk at a party, then you may have a case against the host of the party who provided the alcohol.

If you will be hosting a social gathering at your house and alcohol is served, follow these tips to ensure your party is fun and safe for you and your guests:

  • Know the ages of your guests
  • Do not serve alcoholic beverages to minors
  • Monitor the alcohol consumption of your guests
  • Offer a ride to anyone who appears to be overserved

Matt Devoti is a Partner with Casey & Devoti, a St. Louis-based personal injury law firm.

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