With the school year wrapping up and prom season still in full force, we would like to remind all parents who are hosting get-togethers for both underage and of-age guests to be aware of the law and host gatherings responsibility.
Whether you’re hosting an after-prom party, graduation party, barbeque, or any kind of social get-together where alcohol is being served, you, as the host, bare a huge responsibility for your guests and their safety. Massachusetts Social Host Liability Law is an extremely important subject, because what many people do not realize is that the actions of their guests, even after a guest has left the party, may fall under the responsibility of the host.
According to Massachusetts’ law a social host is considered anyone who provides alcohol to a guest as an act of hospitality without exchanging money. Additionally, a social host is considered someone who also allows a guest to consume alcohol 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.
Under Massachusetts Social Host Liability Law, a social host assumes liability for all injuries sustained by the guest or caused by the guest who was served alcohol. Injuries most often result from [the most common type of] accident: drunk 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.
Social Host Liability Law and Minors
In the United States, any person under the age of 21 is not allowed to consume alcohol. Period. As a parent, it may be tempting to allow your underage son or daughter to have friends over for a party, especially during prom or graduation season, or if your son or daughter is home from college. Taking the keys and requiring guests to sleepover is not the way to prevent minors from getting hurt because of alcohol. Even if a minor injures him/herself without driving, you are still responsible for their injuries because you provided a place to consume alcohol, supplied beverages, and condoned the beverages’ consumption.
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. There is potential that the 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. However 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, the parent 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 is that 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 experienced attorneys today for a free initial consultation. Our lawyers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and all consultations are confidential.
For more information on Social Host Liability Law visit Mass.gov