What is Social Host Liability?
If you frequently entertain guests or plan large gatherings, you might be wondering what is the social host liability in my area?
Social host liability generally is a law created either by statute or case-law that imposes liability on business owners or residential hosts that serve alcohol to customers or guests. The law establishes a nexus between the outcome of intoxication and the act of serving alcohol.
A common example of social host liability is where a parent serves alcohol to a group of minors, then those minors drive home and get into an accident. The minors are liable for the injuries and damages caused by the accident; however, the parents may be liable for certain damages too.
Most States have some form of social host liability. In Minnesota, the law only applies to those serving alcohol to minors. The law does not apply to business owners to individuals serving alcohol to adults.
The Minneapolis Social Host Ordinance
Minneapolis also imposes a specific Social Host Ordinance to address social host liability. The ordinance makes it unlawful to host an event where on any public or private property where alcohol is served knowingly, or with constructive knowledge, that underage persons will consume the alcohol or come into possession of alcohol with the intent to consume it. Even if you are not present while the alcohol is being served, you may still be held liable where you participated in the event planning for the gathering or you had constructive knowledge (or should have known) that minors were going to be served at a gathering in your home.
Violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor crime and the Minneapolis City Council established the ordinance to deter underage drinking by limiting minors’ access to alcohol and alcoholic beverages.
There are exceptions to the crime where:
- the person furnishing the alcohol is the parent of the minor and gave the alcohol only to be consumed in the parent’s home, or
- where the alcohol was furnished to observe religious practices.
The penalties for violating this ordinance include up to $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
Limiting Your Liability
To avoid the imposition of social host liability on you, consider the following before hosting any social gathering.
- Know your guests. If you know your guests and their ages, you can avoid social host liability. If you have guests that are minors, you should observe what they are drinking and make it clear that they are not invited to consume alcohol on the premises.
- Check identification. If you are hosting a large event and you do not know everyone in attendance, cannot be certain of everyone’s ages, or cannot monitor each person’s activities, simply ask to check identification prior to serving alcohol. Most people carry their driver’s licenses on them and will gladly hand them over for a beverage. You can even provide wristbands to guests in advance so they do not have to show their ID each time they get a drink (and to keep the line short).
- Only invite adults to your gathering. The easiest way to prevent minors from drinking at your event or gathering is to only invite adults. Adults only weddings and other events are becoming more commonly practiced to avoid underage drinking.
Most people do not think twice about serving alcohol to their guests. However, allowing minors to drink at your party or failing to monitor the age of your guests who consume alcohol at your gathering can result in serious consequences. If you or someone you know has been charged with violating the Minneapolis social host ordinance, please contact us for a case evaluation.