Disclaimer - By publishing this information on this Web site, the Boston, Massachusetts law firm of Altman & Altman LLP is not claiming to represent any clients or cases mentioned here. The content provided is designed to inform readers and is not intended as legal advice.

Labor Day Is This Weekend: What Every Host Needs to Know About Social Host Liability Law

With Labor Day around the corner, the law offices of Altman & Altman would like to remind those around the Commonwealth to celebrate safely. In addition, we’d like to extend a reminder to those who are planning to host a party on the work-free weekend about keeping their guests safe.

Social Host Liability Law

What is Massachusetts Social Host Liability Law? According to Massachusetts’ law, a social host is defined as anyone who provides alcohol to a guest as an act of hospitality or allows a guest to consume an alcoholic beverage on his or her property. Properties usually someone’s home, but may also include beach property, rental property, boats, or any other type of property in which a host owns or controls.

Under Massachusetts law, a social host assumes responsibility for all injuries caused by or sustained by a guest as the result of consuming alcohol. Injuries most often result from some sort of accident, specifically drunken driving. Hosts are legally responsible for ensuring their guests do not consume alcohol to the point of intoxication. In layman’s terms, if you host a party and one of your guests is over-served and ends up hurting another person, not only is he or she at fault, but you are responsible as well.

Minors and Alcohol

In the United States, it is against the law for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. As a parent, it may be tempting to allow your underage son or daughter to have friends over for a party, especially when your child is college-aged and home from school. While many think taking guests’ keys and requiring them to sleepover is the solution to prevent drunk driving, it is not a solid method to prevent an injury. Falls, drownings and other accidents frequently occur when alcohol is involved.

According to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 138, Section 34, “any person who supplies alcohol to a person under 21 is subject to a $2,000 fine and faces up to a year of imprisonment.”

A common concern many parents with teenagers have is what to do if their underage child has a party while they’re not at home. Sometimes parents can be held responsible, whether or not a guest is injured. However, Massachusetts’ law does not attach civil liability if the parents of the accused minor did not supply the alcohol that was consumed. Simply put, a parent who supplied the alcohol that was consumed at the underage party, whether knowingly or unknowingly, is responsible. A parent who did not supply the alcohol at the party (if for instance the minors brought their own alcohol), and had no knowledge of the party, would not be held liable.

Another issue to be aware of as a parent is that you (the parent) may be civilly liable if your underage child drinks at another person’s house and then injures someone, under the circumstance that you previously gave either explicit or tacit permission for them to consume 
alcohol at someone else’s party.

The Bottom Line

If you are hosting a party, whether with underage children or adult guests, you need to be fully aware of how much alcohol is being consumed, who is consuming the alcohol, and understand that you are ultimately responsible for your guests’ behavior. Do not make the mistake in letting guests become intoxicated-know when to step in and cut them off and take the keys away. Your decision to allow guests to drink to the point of intoxication could cost you financially, as potentially cost someone their life.

If you or someone you love was the victim of a Massachusetts drunk driving accident or suffered serious personal injury as the result of someone being over-served alcohol at another persons’ residence, call the law office of Altman & Altman and speak to one of our experienced Massachusetts Social Host Liability Attorneys.

Whether you were involved in a car accident, a fall, or any other type of incident, we have the resources to help handle your case and achieve the highest possible recovery settlement. Our team of seasoned attorneys has handled these types of cases for nearly five decades and we have a proven track record of success. Call or email one of our attorneys today for a free initial consultation. Our lawyers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and all consultations are confidential.