How to Throw a Party without Throwing Yourself Under a Bus-Host Liability for Drunk Guests

“Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy.” Frank Sinatra

‘Tis the season for endless parties, gatherings, and get-togethers. ‘Tis also the season for overindulgence and hangovers. If your holiday shindig involves alcohol and one of your guests hits the Jingle Juice a little too hard, are you liable for his actions?

Many states have social host liability laws that hold individuals responsible for injuries caused by people they have allowed to drink in their home or at private gatherings before getting behind the wheel.

In Texas, where our lawmakers are reluctant to tell people what they can and cannot do in their own homes, the Social Liability Law is limited.

The general rule is a party host is not liable for the actions of adults who drink at the party. Note, this is different from the way Texas law treats bars and restaurants, holding them liable together with the drunk driver for damages.

There are two circumstances in which a party host is liable: if the party host knowingly serves alcohol to someone under the age of 18 who is NOT related to them, or if the party host gives car keys to a drunk person of any age on the host’s property. “Knowingly” means the host did not know the minor’s age and their assumption regarding the minor’s age was reasonable.

Think about all of the potential guests excluded under the Texas Social Liability Law. Serve alcohol to your own teenager? Serve alcohol to someone who is 18-20? Not liable under the Texas Social Liability Law.

Keep in mind that even if you are not liable under the Social Liability Law, a plaintiff may have other causes of action against you. Anybody can sue anyone for anything. That’s how our legal system works. It doesn’t necessarily mean the lawsuit will be successful.

Considering charging your guests a fee to cover the expenses of your over-the-roof-top Christmas party? In addition to being really tacky, this can land you in serious trouble.

If you charge an entrance or drinking fee, you could be sued for violating the Texas Dram Shop Act if you give alcohol to someone who was obviously intoxicated already. Under the Dram Shop Act, the only people who are liable for over-serving alcohol are known as “providers.” A “provider” is someone who sells alcohol to the public, such as a restaurant or bar. Charge an entrance or drinking fee for your party? Now you are a provider.

If you can’t cover the expenses of your party, scale it back or make it BYOB.

What’s your policy on party guests and alcohol? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Disclaimer: This website is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Copyright © 2017 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

 

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