In 2014, the California Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lower court decision finding that the host of a party can be legally responsible when an underage guest drinks and causes harm to another person. The case involved a young woman (also underage) who had a party and charged guests a small amount to pay for the alcohol. One of the guests left while under the influence and was in a motor vehicle accident, killing a college student.
Unlike many states, California has long placed liability for death or injury caused by a drunk driver solely on the driver, and not on the person who served the alcohol, especially in the context of private parties. The theory behind this law, enacted in 1978, was that most private parties have unattended bars where people tend to serve themselves. Accordingly, hosts would not be able to monitor how many drinks a person had or if the person was visibly intoxicated.
That law changed in 2011, when the California legislature passed a bill that established social host liability when a private host “knowingly” serves alcohol to a minor. There’s also an exception to the law for businesses and individuals who serve alcohol to “habitual or common drunkards” who then cause death or injury. Under the law, a parent, guardian or other adult who knowingly furnishes alcoholic beverages to a minor or habitual/common drunkard can be liable. In fact, if you know that such drinking occurred in the past, you can be liable even if you were unaware it was happening on the occasion that led to the accident. Furthermore, if you violate the law, you’ll likely void your homeowner’s insurance policy.
Contact the Law Offices of J. Lewis & Associates
To discuss your legal needs with an experienced Riverside social host liability injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll-free at 1-800-228-0507. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Se Habla Espanol.