If you’re hosting a barbeque, a get-together with friends, or a party, chances are high that you’re serving alcohol – drinking is part of the social tradition in the United States. And while you may not think twice about serving alcohol–and serving more than one drink to anyone who requests it–it is important to be aware of Massachusetts’ dram shop and social host liability laws. If you serve alcohol to someone in your home and they later get in a car accident that causes injury to themselves or another party, here’s what you need to know about liability–
Dram Shop Laws
Dram shop laws are laws that hold vendors of alcohol–like liquor stores and bars–responsible for damages caused by a drunk person; these types of laws don’t apply to private individuals who serve alcohol in their own home in most cases. And in Massachusetts, there is no specific dram shop-related statute. There is, however, a law that prohibits vendors from distributing alcohol to intoxicated persons. As such, an injured party may be able to hold a vendor liable for their injuries if they can prove that the vendor over-served a person who was visibly intoxicated at the time of being served, and that this person’s intoxication was the proximate cause of the victim’s harm.
Social Host Liability
The other law that pertains to the liability of someone who serves or distributes alcohol is the social host liability law. Like dram shop laws, there is no civil statute in Massachusetts that holds that a host can be held liable for the damages to another in a crash caused by someone to whom the host served alcohol. (As a note, there is a criminal statute that addresses the penalties for serving alcohol to minors under 21 years of age.)
While there isn’t a law on the books addressing social host liability in our state, there is case precedent: in McGuiggan v. New England Tel. & Tel. Co., the court found that a social host could be held liable if they knew or should have known that their guest was drunk, yet “nevertheless gave him or permitted him to take an alcoholic drink.” Another case held that in order for a host to be held liable under the social host theory of liability, they must actually be the one serving the guest; if the host lacks control over the supply of liquor to guests, holding them liable for harm to another caused by a guest’s intoxication is unlikely.
Call Our Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you have been in a drunk driving car accident, you may be able to bring a claim for damages against the drunk driver and the person who served the drunk driver. Doing so will prove difficult, and it will be advantageous to have an attorney on your side who is experienced in both drunk driving personal injury cases and social host liability claims. At The Law Offices of Alan Hildreth King & Associates, we can help. Call our skilled car accident attorneys today at (781) 284-2900 for a free consultation.