Understanding Social Host Liability

As we enter the Summer Season, many of us will host graduation parties, picnics and cookouts at our homes.  If alcohol is being served, you should be aware of Pennsylvania law regarding social host liability.

While we can all agree party hosts have a moral obligation to ensure their guests don’t become intoxicated and drive home, Pennsylvania does not impose a legal duty on private party hosts making them responsible for an intoxicated guest that injures another or himself.  Similarly, employers hosting social functions for their employees are not liable for injuries an intoxicated guest may cause.  Pennsylvania Courts have explained that this theory is based on the presumption that adults are responsible for their own alcohol consumption, including the effects of negligent over-consumption to the point of intoxication.

Significantly, Pennsylvania law does not extend to protect the liability of social hosts who furnish alcohol to minors.  If a party host supplies alcohol to an individual under 21 years of age, and that individual injures himself or another as a result of intoxication, the party host can be held responsible.

Furthermore, the host that furnished alcohol to a minor may face significant criminal charges as well.  Furnishing alcohol to a minor is graded as a misdemeanor offense in Pennsylvania with a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000.00 for the first violation.  Notably, an adult does not actually need to provide the alcohol to minors to be charged under the statute.  Simply permitting underage individuals to consume alcohol at a property owned or controlled by the adult is defined as a violation.

Hosting summer parties is as American as apple pie.  Ensure your next event is safe for both you and your guests.

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