Graduation season bring with it numerous occasions to celebrate with family and friends , you may even be planning to host a graduation party right now. Many of us will be hosting parties to celebrate together. We at Parker Scheer love a good party as much as anyone, but also know that many parties involve alcohol and we’ve seen too often how overindulging can impair judgment and lead to unintended, yet irreversible, outcomes. As you prepare to host your next gathering, we want you to be aware of the Massachusetts social host laws so you can be sure to host responsibly.
Social Host Liability in Massachusetts: What You Should Know
- If you are serving alcohol at your party, it is your legal responsibility to do so in a safe and sensible manner.
- If a guest who was served alcohol at your party gets hurt during the party, you can be liable.
- If that same guest hurts someone else at the party, you can be liable
- If that same adult guest injures themselves only after they’ve left the party, even in a car accident, you can not be held liable.
- However, if that guest leaves the party, drives drunk, and causes an accident that seriously injures or kills someone else, both the driver and you as the host can be held liable.
- If an inebriated and unsteady person at your party gets hurt as a result of dangerous or hazardous conditions on your property, you can also be held liable.
- Your standard homeowners insurance policy may not be enough protection for a private party and you may want to consider specialized insurance that covers alcohol, such as social host liquor liability insurance.
Social Host Liability and Underage Drinking in Massachusetts
Although the legal drinking age across the country is 21, a significant percentage of teens report having consumed alcohol within the last month. If those involved in any of the situations described above are underage, all of the corresponding liability falls on you as the host/owner where the party took place and the consequences can be devastating*. If children or teens will be present at the party, or are considering hosting their own get-together, please be aware:
- You and/or your child are breaking the law if you serve or provide alcohol to underage guests, or even just allow them to drink alcohol in your home. If you do, you may be prosecuted criminally and face a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment for up to a year, or both. You can also be sued in a civil court.
- Many insurance policies do not cover situations where criminal conduct is involved. You may or may not be covered, especially if the underage drinker causes injury or death by use of an automobile.
- As a result, you may be financially responsible if your child or underage guest injures another person (or themselves) after having consumed alcohol at your party. Civil judgments can be for millions of dollars, meaning hosts could lose their savings, college funds, retirement funds and even their house if the accident were severe enough.
- Be aware that the law also applies if you rent a hotel room for the party since you, in essence, ‘control’ the room.
There are many ways to have a safe and fun holiday party without putting yourself, your guests, or others at risk. We encourage you to get together with friends and family to celebrate responsibly with your loved ones!
The team at Parker Scheer has extensive experience pursuing cases under the Massachusetts social host law.
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries as a result of alcohol consumption at a party, contact our team.