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Be aware of liability when serving alcohol at gatherings

Whether you are hosting a football game soiree or a Halloween party this fall, it is prudent to keep in mind the social host liability laws. The state's General Obligations Law, Sec. 11-100, deals with compensation for injuries resulting from illegal sales of liquor, which includes sales to already intoxicated persons.

But of course, you aren't selling liquor at your gatherings. You are offering it to your guests with no compensation required. Surely that gets you off the hook, right?

Not necessarily. If, for instance, you knowingly caused a person to become intoxicated via unlawfully providing them with alcohol (as can definitely happen at a teenage gathering where alcohol is served), you could face liability for any injuries or damages they suffer or cause.

You might argue that you had no idea that your college-age son's girlfriend was still a senior in high school. You thought that, like your son, she was 21 or older. But in the event that she got intoxicated at your party, drove off and slammed into a tree or another motorist, the plaintiff's attorney could convincingly argue that you knew or should have known that she was too young to drink or be served alcoholic beverages at your party.

Would they prevail in court? They certainly could, which is why it is so necessary to closely monitor the ages of those who will be drinking at any party that you throw.

Conversely, if your underage teen is served alcoholic beverages and winds up injured in an accident, you or they may need to file a premises liability claim based on a breach of the state's social host or dram shop liability laws.

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