Everyone loves a party, but if you are the host and serve alcohol to guests, keep in mind you could end up liable if someone you served hurts themselves or another party after drinking. That is known as social host liability. The state’s social host liability laws are similar to its premises liability statutes. The latter require property owners to maintain their property in a safe manner. While premises liability laws most often pertain to issues like clearing snow and ice from sidewalks, maintaining property in a safe manner also includes not allowing guests to drink too much and then drive.
Just as you may prove liable in a slip and fall accident should a guest trip on a hole in your walkway, you may also find yourself liable should a guest become intoxicated and get into an accident on their way home. Under the state’s dram shop laws, formally known as the New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act, anyone injured in a drunk driving accident can file a lawsuit against the person who served the alcohol to the drunk driver. That is not the case in many other states.
However, for the injured party to see damages from a social host, the intoxicated guest must have appeared visibly drunk before leaving the host’s premises. The circumstances regarding the drinking at the gathering must have created unreasonable risk of harm. In other words, the host should have realized the guest had too much to drink to safely operate a motor vehicle.
BYOB and Liability
Under New Jersey law, you do not have to purchase and serve the alcohol yourself to incur liability. If you host a party on your premises, you may also be held liable if they get drunk and cause damage to another party, such as drinking and driving, even if they provided their own alcohol.
Protecting Yourself as a Host
New Jersey’s laws on social host liability do not mean you should give up entertaining at home, or only host non-alcoholic parties. There are ways to protect yourself and still allow your guests to have a good time. If you serve alcohol at your parties, make sure there is plenty of food available, which can help soak up alcohol consumed. Keep an eye on your guests, and if anyone appears intoxicated, make sure they do not get behind the wheel. If the person does not have a designated driver to take them home, consider allowing them to stay overnight at your home, or arrange a ride through another guest or a service, such as Uber or Lyft. You may also want to hire professional bartenders to serve your guests, since they should have training in recognizing those who have consumed too much alcohol. You must also make sure that anyone consuming alcohol at your home is of legal drinking age.
Camden Premises Liability Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Represent Those Injured by Property Owner Negligence
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured on a public or private property, you need the services of the experienced Camden premises liability lawyers at DiTomaso Law. For a free consultation, call us today at 856-414-0010 or contact us online today. With office locations in Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients from the surrounding areas.