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In N.C., Party Hosts Can Be Liable For Accidents Caused By Guests

Posted December 31, 2003

— Drunken driving is not the only trouble you could get into on New Year's Eve. If you have a party, you should know what you might be liable for.

Those who host parties in North Carolina may not be charged criminally, but there is a wide variety of civil action that can occur.

"It's so important that hosts of parties this holiday season exercise due caution. This is a very serious business. We are talking about saving lives," said John Simmons, deputy director of ALE. "It's not statutory. Social hosts cannot be charged criminally. However, there is a large amount of civil liability associated with individuals being totally irresponsible."

For example in North Carolina, a convenience store clerk could be liable if the person sold alcohol to an intoxicated person who later committed some kind of offense.

"When there's injury, when there is maiming, when there is death, the gloves are off. Anybody can be sued for anything," Simmons said.

Some people had mixed opinions when told about the liability of party hosts.

"Well, as a party host, I think that law sucks, but unfortunately, that's the climate we live in these days," said Lawrence Hiatt.

"If you're going to host a party, you should be able to provide either transportation for other people or allow them to sleep at your house," said Donna Cole.

Attorney Bob Hensley said he has successfully defended several party hosts charged with alcohol violations.

"The laws are so broad and so inspecific that if they're attacked properly in court, they can almost all the time be defeated," he said. "They're trying to keep drunks off the road. They're trying to keep assaults from happening. That's fine, but to hit a property owner for something that someone is doing that he has no control over is not wise."

Undercover alcohol law enforcement officers will be watching for violations at bars, restaurants and even the

First Night Raleigh



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