Local News

Party Hosts Liable for Accidents Stemming from Alcohol

Posted December 28, 2000

— New Year's Eve brings parties and sometimes drinking. If you are throwing a party Sunday night, you could end up in court -- even if you did not have a drop of alcohol.

Just as bartenders must look after their customers to make sure no one has too much, similar rules apply to private citizens. They could be held responsible if there is an accident.

"If you, as the host, knew or should have known that the driver was intoxicated and that the person would be driving from the party, you would be held liable," says lawyer Jay Ferguson.

Telling whether someone is drunk is not easy. Courts say that bartenders should have a professional judgment in deciding when someone has had too much.

However, people at home usually are not professionals and may be held to looser standards. Ferguson suggests that hosts be insured and that they take common sense measures.

"Look for signs and symptoms of impairment," he says. "And if you see someone who is impaired, take some affirmative measures to stop the person from driving."

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