My wife and I live in the Greater Boston area and often host dinner parties where we serve alcoholic beverages. Does the social host law mean that if you serve alcohol at a party that you can get sued if your guests get in an accident and hurt someone? Thank you in advance.
The Social Host Law in Massachusetts provides for a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment for up to a year, or both. The social host law now holds Massachusetts homeowners and their teenagers more accountable.
The Social Host Law applies to both guests under age 21 and adult guests. If your guest was under age 21 and you allowed him to consume alcohol, you committed a crime. It is against the law to serve minors alcohol and allow them to consume it on any premises you control. Violation of a criminal statute is powerful evidence that you were negligent. If your guest was an adult who was visibly impaired, you were negligent if you permitted him to drink alcohol at your home. You are negligent if you permit an impaired and/or underage guest(s) to drink at your home.
A person charged under the law can expect to face a civil lawsuit as well. The civil law holds you liable because the likelihood of your impaired or underage guest(s) injuring or killing a third person is so great. If an underage guest leaves a party and causes a motor vehicle accident involving personal injury or death, both the underage guest and the party host may be liable. Under the principle of joint and several liability, if two or more parties are civilly liable, then any one of them may be required to pay the entire amount of the judgment. You could be forced to pay the entire judgment if the underage guest cannot afford to pay. Recent judgments in these cases have been over $1,000,000.
A drunk driver who is ordered to pay a civil judgment cannot avoid paying by declaring bankruptcy. It is possible a social host can avoid paying a civil judgment if he is bankrupt, but there is a growing trend to prevent this from happening.
Your insurance policy MAY cover a judgment against you as a social host. However, it will most likely not be enough to pay the judgment. If you are also charged criminally, then it is possible that your policy will not cover the civil judgment.
Greater Boston Personal Injury Lawyer, Attorney Alan Segal is based in Needham, MA and serves the Greater Boston region and all of Massachusetts in all personal injury accident claims and cases, including the cities and towns of Acton Agawam Amherst Andover Arlington Attleboro Barnstable Belmont Beverly Billercia Boston Braintree Bridgewater Brockton Brookline Burlington Cambridge Canton Chelmsford Chelsea Chicopee Danvers Dartmouth Dedham Dracut Easton Everett Fall River Falmouth Fitchburg Framingham Gloucester Haverhill Holyoke Lawrence Leominster Lexington Lowell Lynn Malden Marlborough Medford Melrose Metheun Milford Milton Natick Needham New Bedford Newton North Andover North Attleboro North Reading Norwood Peabody Pittsfield Plymouth Quincy Randolph Revere Salem Saugus Shrewsbury Somerville Springfield Stoughton Taunton Tewksbury Waltham Watertown Wellesley Westfield West Springfield Weymouth Woburn Worcester.