Social Host & Liquor Liability Laws in Massachusetts

Many people know that bars can be liable for serving alcohol to customers who are obviously drunk. But did you know friends, family, and other private hosts may also be legally responsible for overserving their guests? While only commercial establishments are subject to Massachusetts liquor liability statutes, both businesses and private citizens can face penalties in civil court.

What does this mean to you? If you are injured by an intoxicated individual in Massachusetts, you have the right to sue not only that person but also whoever served that person too much alcohol.

When Does Alcohol Liability Law Apply?

In what are known as third-party legal claims, someone not directly involved in an incident may be sued in civil court. Under certain circumstances, Massachusetts courts can order restaurants, bars, and nightclubs to pay for injuries caused by their inebriated guests.

By far, the most common type of third-party alcohol liability claim results from drunk driving. If an intoxicated patron leaves a bar, gets in a car accident, and injures another person, that person can file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver AND the bar.

But Massachusetts liquor liability laws also apply to a variety of other situations. In cases of physical assault, accidental falls, property damage, and other incidents involving intoxicated customers, victims may file for compensation from the venue that overserved the customer.

What Are Massachusetts Liquor Liability Laws?

Businesses that sell alcohol in Massachusetts can be accountable for damages under liquor liability laws (also called “dram shop” laws, after an old British word for taverns). These statutes prohibit bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and other commercial establishments from serving alcohol to obviously intoxicated people.

This places a responsibility on bartenders, servers, and other employees to observe customers for visible signs of drunkenness. If patrons smell of alcohol, have slurred speech, show aggression, or are walking unsteadily, they cannot legally be served alcohol. Massachusetts also requires businesses that sell alcohol to carry liquor liability insurance.

What is Massachusetts Social Host Liability?

There is no Massachusetts statute prohibiting private parties from overserving their guests. However, courts have established what is known as “social host liability.” This means private hosts have a duty not to serve alcohol to guests they know (or should know) are intoxicated. While much less common than commercial liquor liability, private parties in Massachusetts can be found responsible for injuries caused by their guests.

Do I Have a Massachusetts Liquor Liability Case?

 If you were injured by a drunk driver or other intoxicated individual, you may know you can file a lawsuit against that person. But at Altman & Altman LLP, our experienced personal injury attorneys can determine if you also qualify for a claim against anyone else.

Whether you were hurt in a drunk driving accident, fall down accident, assault, or any other incident caused by an intoxicated person, we can help. Our Boston liquor liability lawyers will work to get you compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, disability, pain and suffering, wrongful death, and more.

The social host liability attorneys at Altman & Altman LLP are standing by to answer your questions. Call us today 24/7 at 617.492.3000 or contact us online.




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