Please note that this is not legal advice. See our disclaimer.
If you are hosting a party this summer or planning a wedding, it’s important that you understand the laws governing your responsibility as a social host. A social host is any person or organization, including an employer, who sponsors a social event and invites others to attend or participate. The primary concern for a social host is liability for the acts of persons who have consumed alcoholic beverages at the social event. A person who becomes intoxicated may get behind the wheel of a car and cause an accident, or may start a fight. In certain circumstances, the person or organization serving the alcohol may have legal or financial responsibility for any injuries sustained.
The laws of Pennsylvania and New Jersey differ dramatically with respect to social host liability.
In Pennsylvania, the courts have generally rejected the legal theory of social host liability simply for furnishing beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages to adults. Pennsylvania law considers it the responsibility of an adult to use due caution when consuming alcoholic beverages. Pennsylvania takes a completely different approach, however, when alcoholic beverages are provided to minors. Because a minor is not considered competent to manage his or her intake of alcohol, an adult who provides intoxicants to a minor may be responsible for all harm caused by anyone under the age of 21 due to inebriation.
In New Jersey, a social host may be held liable for injuries caused by anyone who gets drunk at the host’s event and injures someone in a motor vehicle accident, including adults. The rule is generally limited, however, to injuries caused by individuals who were obviously or visibly intoxicated. New Jersey, like Pennsylvania, holds social hosts responsible for any injuries caused by minors who have been served alcoholic beverages.
If you plan to have a party and know that you will serve alcoholic beverages, you may want to inquire with your insurance agent whether you can put a rider on your homeowner’s policy to cover you in the event someone drinks at your party and then causes personal injury to another person.
Contact the Law Offices of Hornstine Law, LLC
At Hornstine Law LLC, we have decades of experience protecting the rights of people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including people charged with social host liability. We take an aggressive approach, using our knowledge, skill, experience and resources to help you get the outcome you want. We offer a free initial consultation in every case. To set up a private meeting, contact our office online or call us at 215-568-4968 (in New Jersey at 609-523-2222).