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Articles Posted in Social Host Liability

The Angry Bull Saloon, a bar in Hartford, Conn., will not reopen following a tragic incident that occurred on March 3 involving a teenager who fell from the roof level of the building that housed the bar.

An investigation by police concluded that the death of an 18-year-old female was an accident, but the police also believe that the teenager was at the bar before she fell four stories to her death. Toxicology reports have yet to be released, so it is unknown whether or not the teenager was intoxicated at the time of her fall.

The Angry Bull agreed to turn in its liquor license and close its doors during the investigation, and has now officially decided to close indefinitely because the city of Hartford would have imposed costly new security measures as an ultimatum to reopen. As requested by the chief of police, the bar would have had to have paid the city for police details on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, a cost of about $584 a night.

Police reported that the teenager was able to gain access to the bar with a “very good” fake ID, and that she still had a wrist band from the bar on her wrist when she accidentally fell from the fourth-floor of the building. Police said she was able to get onto the roof by simply walking up a set of outdoor stairs and then climbing a ladder up to the roof. It is believed she was alone at the time of the incident.

The Angry Bull had already caught the attention of Hartford police before the tragic incident, as they had been the subject of three referrals to the Liquor Control Commission since November; including two for allegedly allowing underage drinking.

One of these referrals was closed without any action taken, and the other remained under open investigation. According to the Courant, state and local police were in the midst of planning an undercover operation at the bar at the time of the accident.

Many responsible for this tragedy

Although you should never climb to the roof of an unfamiliar building without any supervision or proper safety precautions (and especially not if you have been drinking any amount), it should not have been so easy for a teenager to gain access to a roof that is four stories high. It should not have been possible for an underage person to gain access to a bar, no matter how convincing her fake identification was.

While the bar has done the right thing in closing down their business following such a horrific event, they are still not out of the woods when it comes to liability for the death of the teenager. If it turns out that she was intoxicated at the time of the accident, the owner and bartenders who served the young woman will be in significantly more trouble.

Likewise, the owner of the building that housed the bar would be liable for the tragedy as well, since they did not prevent access from the foreseeable and dangerous situation of somebody gaining access to the roof. Both the owner of the bar and the owner of the building may eventually be taken to court due to their negligence that helped contribute to a death.

Ensuring that your place of business, and ensuring that any property you own, doesn’t become a hazard to those that patronize it is a fundamental responsibility of the individuals that own these properties. Continue reading

You’re the parent of a Massachusetts high school student and have done a tremendous job so far of encouraging your child to always be honest and always ask you questions, even the ones that make you uncomfortable. One day, you get a question you never truly expected to get: “Mom, dad, I want to invite over a few friends. They were going to drink, so I thought it would be safer for us to do it here. Is that okay?”  You know that your child is a good kid, and you know that teenagers will probably find a place to drink anyways, so you agree. After all, you’ll supervise the party and make sure that nothing goes wrong, right? By 2:00 a.m., the party has died down and mostly all of the teens are asleep. You feel like the coolest parent on the block and you finally allow yourself to go to bed.

In the morning you are jolted awake by a call from the police. One of your child’s intoxicated friends snuck out shortly after you dozed off and got into a severe car accident with another motorist. The child survived but the other driver was injured. Not only was your decision to host an underage drinking party illegal, you are also now completely liable for both the injured teenager and any action taken by the driver’s family.

Providing alcohol or a place to drink for anyone under 21 is illegal

Massachusetts has strong laws on the books about “furnishing” alcohol to any individual under the age of 21. To furnish means to knowingly and intentionally supply, give, or allow the possession of alcohol to those under 21. If found guilty perpetrators can face up to a $2,000 fine and up to a year in prison, not to mention the thousands, or potentially millions, of dollars in civil suits that could follow.  Adults will be liable for any individual who gets drunk on their property – even if it’s a rented hotel room – and proceeds to cause damage or harm to any property or other individual. Homeowners insurance likely won’t cover these costs, especially if the intoxicated, underage individual causes damage or harm after getting behind the wheel of a car.

While parents might think that they are being cool and responsible by keeping a close eye on the activity, underage drinking is still underage drinking. The better approach is to always talk with your child about the dangers of underage drinking and what the consequences of such actions could be. While you can’t control every action your child makes, you can always control what goes on in your own home. Continue reading

You’re the parent of a high school student and have done a tremendous job so far of encouraging your child to always be honest and always ask you questions, even the ones that make you uncomfortable. One day, you get a question you never truly expected to get: “Mom, dad, I want to invite over a few friends. They were going to drink, so I thought it would be safer for us to do it here. Is that okay?”  You know that your child is a good kid, and you know that teenagers will probably find a place to drink anyways, so you agree. After all, you’ll supervise the party and make sure that nothing goes wrong, right? By 2:00 a.m., the party has died down and mostly all of the teens are asleep. You feel like the coolest parent on the block and you finally allow yourself to go to bed.

In the morning you are jolted awake by a call from the police. One of your child’s intoxicated friends snuck out shortly after you dozed off and got into a severe car accident with another motorist. The child survived but the other driver was killed. Not only was your decision to host an underage drinking party illegal, you are also now completely liable for both the injured teenager and any action taken by the deceased driver’s family.

Providing alcohol or a place to drink for anyone under 21 is illegal

Massachusetts has strong laws on the books about “furnishing” alcohol to any individual under the age of 21. To furnish means to knowingly and intentionally supply, give, or allow the possession of alcohol to those under 21. If found guilty perpetrators can face up to a $2,000 fine and up to a year in prison, not to mention the thousands, or potentially millions, of dollars in civil suits that could follow.  Adults will be liable for any individual who gets drunk on their property – even if it’s a rented hotel room – and proceeds to cause damage or harm to any property or other individual. Homeowners insurance likely won’t cover these costs, especially if the intoxicated, underage individual causes damage or harm after getting behind the wheel of a car.

While parents might think that they are being cool and responsible by keeping a close eye on the activity, underage drinking is still underage drinking. The better approach is to always talk with your child about the dangers of underage drinking and what the consequences of such actions could be. While you can’t control every action your child makes, you can always control what goes on in your own home. Continue reading

A dram shop is an American legal term that refers to a bar or vendor of alcoholic beverages, named after certain institutions in 18th Century England where alcohol was served by the spoonful, also called a dram.  Dram shop liability involves the series of laws regarding the liability of alcohol vendors such as bars, taverns, liquor stores, restaurants, nightclubs, country clubs, athletic and sports venues, and fraternity organizations.  Under dram shop liability laws, such establishments can usually be held liable in cases where visibly intoxicated individuals or minors are served alcohol and subsequently, these individuals cause serious injury or death to a third party.  The particular liability laws vary depending on the state.  It may seem unfair that bars can be held accountable for accidents and injuries caused by a customer at their business, but the law requires you to be aware of over-consumption of alcohol by your patrons if you own a bar.  Most states also require your staff be trained to recognize over-consumption as well.  It is possible that if one of your patrons injures or kills someone else due to intoxication after visiting your establishment, you can be found just as liable as the patron.  In certain states, continuing to serve alcohol to a customer who is visibly intoxicated can result in criminal charges.

Some states allow injured people to sue alcohol vendors for damages through a civil claim under dram shop laws, but Massachusetts does not.  The state does have several laws in place that restrict the irresponsible sale of alcohol.  Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 138, Section 69 prohibits vendors from giving alcohol to an “intoxicated person”.  This requires waiters and bartenders to take note of the typical symptoms of alcohol intoxication such as slurred speech, slowed or delayed reaction time, aggression and other common symptoms.  In past cases, vendors who violate this law have been found negligent following a civil lawsuit.  In order to successfully prove a vendor liable in such a case, the injured person must prove the patron was visibly intoxicated while the vendor continued to serve him or her alcohol.  The injured person can only file a personal injury claim in this context, meaning against a vendor of alcohol.  An injured person would not be able to file a personal injury claim against a social host who provided alcohol to guests after they were visibly intoxicated.  Social hosts can face criminal charges, however, if he or she provides alcohol to a minor under the legal drinking age while on the host’s property.  Continue reading

If you are injured by someone whose intoxication is a result of being over-served at a bar, restaurant, or nightclub, you can hold the establishment civilly liable in the state of Massachusetts. This is known as a “dram shop claim,” and it can also apply to social hosts who serve alcohol at a party or other event.

Massachusetts prohibits all alcohol vendors from selling or serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. Doing so can make the vendor liable for negligence. However, the injured person must show that the vendor continued serving alcohol to the visibly intoxicated individual. For example, if the person sitting next to you is still ordering drinks even though his speech is slurred, you can file a personal injury claim if you’re injured when he falls from his barstool and knocks you over. You can also file a dram shop claim against the bar.

Social Hosts

Bar owners and servers are supposed to be professionally trained to detect when a patron is visibly intoxicated. But what about social hosts? If you are injured when an intoxicated guest leaves your neighbor’s birthday party, can you hold your neighbor liable? The short answer is “no.” With very few exceptions, the only way a social host can be held liable for serving alcohol is if he or she serves minors under the age of 21.

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A popular bar near Boston’s TD Garden was allowed to reopen following an inspection by city officials last week.

The Greatest Bar, located on Friend Street, was investigated by Boston police officers and the chief of the Problem Properties Task Force on Thursday night during a raid of its premises for a series of reported violations.

According to WCVB, the owners of The Greatest Bar were issued 16 violations stemming from 30 different incidents reported between 2013 and 2015. The incidents ranged from everything from assaults and fights and patrons being injured, to patrons being overserved, WCVB reports. The owners were ordered to meet with city officials by Friday morning or risk having the bar shut down permanently.

In a statement made to the media, Greatest Bar co-owner Julie Fairweather said, “We are pleased to have been able to work with city officials today to address their concerns,” co-owner Julie Fairweather said in a statement. “We will be ready to work with the city again tomorrow – and moving forward from this point on – to continue making progress in addressing any concerns that they might have.”

“In August of last year, we started reaching out to the property owner, and have had no response since then,” Smith said. “There have been a number of police violations and police presence (has) showed up here. So it boiled up to the point where we felt that we needed to make some sort of action to go into the establishment and say, ‘This is not OK,'” Jerome Smith, chair of the Problem Property Task Force said. Smith went on record to say that The Great Bar is “the worst offender among Boston’s problem businesses.”

According to WCVB, the commissioner of inspectional services, William Christopher, authorities found some violations on Thursday, including problems with egress. The bar has reportedly had problems with overcrowding in the past, but when the task force arrived, there was no issue.

“We take this very seriously. That this is not just a list of places that we think are in trouble,” Christopher said in a statement to WCVB. “These are places where we are going to be very proactive about. We’re going to go out and visit them. We’re going to make sure they adhere to the rules and regulations and offer a safe establishment for people to enjoy.”

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A North Andover woman was arrested this weekend for hosting an underage drinking party. According to police, the woman, whose children were also both in attendance, charged teens an attendance fee.

Police officers had received reports of an underage drinking party at the Woodcrest Drive residence Friday night. There were reportedly more than 50 teenagers at the party. The woman also provided alcohol to the teens.

With prom season just around the corner and graduation coming shortly thereafter, we’d like to send a reminder to all parents with teenagers about social host liability law.

What is Massachusetts Social Host Liability Law? Under Massachusetts’ law, a social host is considered 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. While the property that is involved is usually someone’s home, properties can also include beach property, rental property, and even boats-essentially any property that a host owns or controls.

In accordance with this 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, namely drunken driving. According to the Massachusetts judicial system hosts are responsible for making sure their guests do not consume alcohol to the point of intoxication. For example, if you host a party and one of your guests is over-served and ends up injuring another person as a result of drunk driving, not only is he at fault, but you are responsible as well. Continue reading