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Social Host Liability

Posted by Caleb A. Miller | May 01, 2022 | 0 Comments

Social Host Liability

As the best drinking holidays are almost among us, it is important to take into consideration the significant liability individuals and businesses can face when serving alcohol on their premises. We must address the harsh reality that although we all know better than to get behind the wheel of a car when intoxicated, it is likely inevitable for the many families and businesses who have incorporated drinking as a part of the routine family traditions during this time of year, or any other time.

Many states have implemented what is commonly referred to as “Dram Shop” (named based on an outdated unit of measurement of alcohol called the “dram”) and “Social Host Liability” laws which places a business which sells alcohol, or the host of a gathering in which alcohol is provided, liable for the negligence of the intoxicated guests who were served. We have most commonly seen this liability take place when the intoxicated guest then drives his vehicle and gets into an accident, and it can be proven that the social host or business knew the guest was drunk, and continued to serve them.

            California Civil Code section 1714 explicitly states that the “furnishing of alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries resulting from intoxication, but rather the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another California dram Shop and by an intoxicated person.” Some have misunderstood this law to mean that California does not follow the Social host Liability and Dram Shop laws common in many other states. This is not the case.

            California Civil Code section 1714 applies when any parent, guardian, or other adult, at his or her residence, knowingly furnishes alcohol to a person who the host knows (or should know) is under 21 years of age, may be found liable for injuries or death. The statute itself has included an employer's employees at a holiday work party to be considered guests of a social host, for the purpose of this type of liability. Additionally, when a business is licensed to sell alcohol and that business does in fact sell, give away, or otherwise provide alcohol to any “obviously intoxicated minor,” the business will be held civilly liable for the injuries and death to that minor and those third parties they injure, under business and Professions Code section 25602.1. This code additionally allows criminal liability to any person or business who provides alcohol to (1) any habitual or common drunkard; and (2) to any obviously intoxicated person.

            If you have been injured by a drunk driver, you may be entitled to compensation from the establishment which furnished the intoxicated driver with alcohol.  

About the Author

Caleb A. Miller

Caleb A. Miller is a Marine Corps Veteran and founder of Miller Wilmers, APC.


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