Social host liability – also known as underage drinking liability is often overlooked by parents and teenagers; however, failure to address this issue can have grave legal and financial consequences.
Who is at Risk?
In New York State, under state-enforced social host laws, it is illegal for any social host to knowingly and willingly allow underage drinking in their home. This is regardless of whether you rent or own your home, and failure to obey these laws could result in hefty fines or even jail time. Further, any social host is liable for their guests after they have left their property. Social host liability can also extend to parents who knowingly provide their underage children with alcohol. In some situations, parents may have plausible deniability- for example, if they are unaware of the underage drinking; however, they still may be liable for some of the damages.
For example, if your child hosts a party that involves the consumption of alcohol, and one guest is later involved in a car accident while under the influence, you could be liable for a portion of the damages experienced by both your guest and their victim(s). It is important to note that in this situation, the homeowner (or renter) is still liable for accidents and injuries sustained or caused by guests after leaving an event. Even if there are no accidents or injuries, parents can receive fines ranging from $500 to over $1500 for their negligence and even jail time.
Precautionary Measures to Avoid Liability
● Try to limit underage drinking and inform your children of the implications that Social Host Liability can present.
● Encourage guests to drink responsibly and use a taxi service if they over-drink.
● Do not tolerate any reckless underage drinking on your property, and do not provide your children with alcohol.
● Set a good example for your kids; teach them to drink responsibly to avoid any future injuries or lawsuits.
Whether you are a homeowner or renter, you should take precautionary measures to ensure that your guests make it home safe and that your children are aware of the legal implications of underage drinking. Doing so will ensure that everyone is safe and will prevent you from paying fines or being sued for negligence and avoid a personal injury lawsuit. If you or your child have experienced an accident or injury involving social host liability, and believe someone else’s negligence caused it, contact an attorney to learn more about your rights. You may be eligible for compensation. Our attorneys at Halperin & Halperin PC have handled several cases involving accidents and fatalities resulting from Social Host Liability and can guide you through the legal process.
The social host laws for New York State can be found here.