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ParentalAdvisory
01-05-2004, 01:32 PM
Ripped from another message board after a post about a fatal accident of a drunk leaving a party:

I'm just glad it wasn't my party he was leaving from....



I've heard of bars and pubs being accountable if a drunk leaves and drives away. But what about your house? Say you host a party, are you bound by any law that says anything to the effect of watching alcohol consumption by invitees, and/or if they drive home drunk? I'm in Illinois FWIW.

Gfactor
01-05-2004, 01:49 PM
It varies from state to state. For a long time, in Michigan the answer was no. This is a counter-intuitive result. What if the person is so drunk they can barely walk? Shouldn't someone (the person who served them alcohol) bear some responsibility?

The Michigan case on point was Guitar vs. Bienstock. In that case, the court found that because liquor liability was governed by the dram-shop act (an act that imposes liability on liquor licensees for serving visibly intoxicated people). The dram-shop act does not cover those who are not licensees (for example, people having parties). Therefore, the court concluded that the legislature meant to shield non-licensees from liability that would otherwise have been imposed by basic negligence principles.

I'm not sure if that is still the law here, and I don't know the law in Illinois. But it varies quite a bit.

Gfactor
01-05-2004, 03:52 PM
It varies from state to state. For a long time, in Michigan the answer was no. This is a counter-intuitive result. What if the person is so drunk they can barely walk? Shouldn't someone (the person who served them alcohol) bear some responsibility?

The Michigan case on point was Guitar vs. Bienstock. In that case, the court found that because liquor liability was governed by the dram-shop act (an act that imposes liability on liquor licensees for serving visibly intoxicated people). The dram-shop act does not cover those who are not licensees (for example, people having parties). Therefore, the court concluded that the legislature meant to shield non-licensees from liability that would otherwise have been imposed by basic negligence principles.

I'm not sure if that is still the law here, and I don't know the law in Illinois. But it varies quite a bit.

Really Not All That Bright
01-05-2004, 04:04 PM
It also depends on whether the person is legally of age. In Florida at least, if you serve (knowingly or not) alcohol to a minor who then drives home impaired and runs someone over, the victim and/or family will generally be able to hold you liable.

ParentalAdvisory
01-05-2004, 04:19 PM
Whoa. A double post within 2 hrs of each other. Crazy Hampsters!

Duckster
01-05-2004, 05:45 PM
Originally posted by ParentalAdvisory
Whoa. A double post within 2 hrs of each other. Crazy Hampsters!

Ah, the second hamster just left the party ...

I'd stay off the roads for a while.

Ostrya
01-05-2004, 05:58 PM
Shouldn't someone (the person who served them alcohol) bear some responsibility?
Not unless the person held them down and forced the booze down their throat. Otherwise the drinker should be accountable for what they do.

ParentalAdvisory
01-05-2004, 07:13 PM
I agree with greenfingers.

Also, what if I had a buddy drink moderately, and behind my back, took a couple swigs from the flask in the bathroom. This is where things get tricky. Who am I to say whether you're drunk or not? I'm not going to be giving breathalizers. Sure it would be responsible, but if I did that, I wouldn't count on too many parties in the future. My OP is more of, are there laws for this? Your state, my state, it doesn't matter.

Fish
01-05-2004, 07:25 PM
This is turning into a Great Debate topic, but yeah, I couldn't see prosecuting and/or suing a host simply because the guest did something stupid after imbibing alcohol.

I think the difference is that some litigious people are confusing "responsible, mature, adult behavior is to intervene in the person's drinking" with "this person is legally culpable for the actions of another." The only reason one might implement such a law is if the injured party(ies) are rushing around with a lawyer and looking for someone to aim the lawyer at—often, I imagine, when the actual drunk responsible can't himself be sued.

danceswithcats
01-05-2004, 07:29 PM
No cite available, but I recall a case some years ago involving a shite who left a party, ran down the road like he was chasing Richard Petty, slid on some ice, hit a tree and ended up a quad.

He sued: the homeowners who hosted the party, PENNDOT for allowing the dip in the pavement which accumulated ice, the homeowners adjacent to said dip for having washed a car in their driveway, the runoff of same causing ice in said dip, and probably Og for growing the tree, as well as the hops and barley leading to his sorry state. :rolleyes:

No recall of how the case turned out, but he was fried in the court of public opinion, based upon letters to the editor, IIRC.

MLS
01-05-2004, 10:14 PM
IANAL, but I believe that in NJ the answer is yes, you MAY be held liable. If logic prevailed (hope springs eternal) if you had no way of knowing the guest had just chugged several swigs before heading out the door, that could be mitigating. But if you were the one serving the liquor, and the person was showing signs of inebriation, and you didn't tell him to sleep on the couch or call him a cab or whatever, you could be held responsible.

I am sure that laws vary from state to state, but I believe there is something called a "host liability" law here.

If someone who IS an attorney in NJ wants to correct or corroborate, I would welcome that.

Zaphod7
01-05-2004, 10:26 PM
i guess its the same as if someone brings drugs to your party you can be charged for that.
Happened to my buddy lee, he had a party someone brought speed, cops came, lee got charged as well, but then again he isnt the most innocent im pretty sure the cops would have found a shit load more had they searched his house.

Zaphod

Duckster
01-05-2004, 10:37 PM
Originally posted by Zaphod7
i guess its the same as if someone brings drugs to your party you can be charged for that.
Happened to my buddy lee, he had a party someone brought speed, cops came, lee got charged as well, but then again he isnt the most innocent im pretty sure the cops would have found a shit load more had they searched his house.

Zaphod

Assuming you mean an illegal drug. There is a world of difference where alcohol is availble at a party where the partygoers may legally consume it vs. an illegal substance at a party.

netscape 6
01-06-2004, 08:41 AM
Originally posted by Duckster
Assuming you mean an illegal drug. There is a world of difference where alcohol is availble at a party where the partygoers may legally consume it vs. an illegal substance at a party.

So we have to strip search our guests now?

FordPrefect
01-06-2004, 09:00 AM
Originally posted by netscape 6
So we have to strip search our guests now?

I am starting to make the invite list for my next party now :)

netscape 6
01-06-2004, 09:39 AM
Originally posted by FordPrefect
I am starting to make the invite list for my next party now :)

Your right. With the right guests maybe this is not so bad after all.

fezpp
01-06-2004, 09:52 AM
This might be IMHO but liability/compensation business makes my blood boil!

Assume Guest X gets drunk at your party with alcohol that they themselves contributed to the party.
If you decide they are too drunk to drive what are you to do? Let them go and get sued cause the drunken idiot hits some kid or not let them go and get sued for false imprisonment. No win situation.

The compensation culture seems to make people forget the idea of personal responsibility.

Dinsdale
01-06-2004, 10:14 AM
I think the varying opinions attest to the fact that liability is a factual determination left to the trier of fact.

I am sure we can come up with scenarios where a party host is clearly negligent with respect to the manner in which he dispenses liquor, and alows incompetent guests to drive away. OTOH, I am sure we can imagine scenarios where tragedy occurs despite a host's best efforts.

Certainly, in the case of consenting adults, I believe there is no strict liability OBO the social party host. (Apologies for not seeking citation.)

pravnik
01-06-2004, 10:17 AM
At common law there's no duty for the actions of third parties that one serves to the point of intoxication, thus the need to enact Dram Shop laws to make commercial servers liable for overserving. FWIW, the MADD website (http://www3.madd.org/laws/law.cfm?LawID=HOST) claims that 32 states have imposed some form of social host liability, but I'm not 100% sure. They list Texas as one of the States that has, but the Texas Supreme Court has stated many times that the Dram Shop Act here doesn't impose social host liability, most recently in 1997 and 2001. I can't imagine that the legislature here has imposed social host liability in the last year and a half without my having heard about it.

For more info google "social host liability".

Dinsdale
01-06-2004, 10:57 AM
Wow! Was I wrong. Note, I am not your lawyer, etc. But I found these in a quick search of Ill caselaw.

This seems to be a prominent decision on the issue.
Charles v. Seigfried, 651 N.E.2d 154 (1995)

Administrator of estate of minor who was killed in accident which occurred after minor drove away from party while legally intoxicated brought action against host who had provided alcohol. Host moved to dismiss action, and the Circuit Court granted motion.

Administrator appealed, and the Appellate Court, reversed and created cause of action against social hosts who knowingly serve alcoholic beverages to minors.

In separate action, passenger who was injured in accident while riding in vehicle driven by intoxicated underage person brought action against host of gathering who had provided alcohol, and the Circuit Court, granted host's motion to dismiss. Passenger appealed, and the Appellate Court, reversed.

After allowing petitions of hosts for leave to appeal and consolidating actions, the Supreme Court held that: (1) General Assembly has preempted entire field of alcohol-related liability through its passage and continual amendment of Dramshop Act, and (2) no cause of action exists under Dramshop Act against social hosts who provide alcohol, regardless of whether alcohol is provided to adults, underage persons, or minors.


Charles was recently cited with approval in Wakulich v. Mraz, 785 N.E.2d 843 (2003)

Mother whose 16-year-old daughter died after drinking a quart of alcohol, alleged that social hosts were negligent in providing alcohol to daughter and inducing her to consume a dangerous amount. Court held mother failed to state a cause of action; apart from the limited civil liability provided in the Dramshop Act, no social host liability existed in Illinois.

Civil liability for alcohol-related injuries is limited under the Dramshop Act to two groups of defendants: (1) dramshop owners, and (2) persons 21 years of age or older who pay for a hotel or motel room knowing that the room will be used by underage persons for the unlawful consumption of alcohol.

Decision cites exception to the general rule against social host liability for situations involving college hazing incidents, which are covered by an anti-hazing statute.

Court held that mother DID state a cause of action for negligent performance of a voluntary undertaking, where complaint alleged that, after guest became unconscious, social hosts placed guest in family room, observed her vomiting profusely, checked on her periodically, replaced her vomit-saturated blouse, placed a pillow under her head to prevent aspiration, did not seek medical attention, prevented others from seeking medical care, refused to drive her home or to the hospital, and refused to call her parents; allegations satisfied any requirement that hosts' conduct must have increased the risk of harm to guest, and complaint alleged an affirmative act by social hosts, not simply a failure to act.

Generally, pursuant to the voluntary undertaking theory of liability, one who undertakes, gratuitously or for consideration, to render services to another is subject to liability for bodily harm caused to the other by one's failure to exercise due care in the performance of the undertaking. The court distinguishes a case where a host merely permits an intoxicated guest to "sleep it off" on the host's floor, stating such host does not thereby assume an open-ended duty to care for the guest and assess the guest's medical condition.
___

So, in Illinois at least, it seems you may be better off shoving a drunk out the door and into his car, rather than allowing him to sleep it off in your home. Lovely!

Ferret Herder
01-06-2004, 11:14 AM
Originally posted by Dinsdale

-----
Generally, pursuant to the voluntary undertaking theory of liability, one who undertakes, gratuitously or for consideration, to render services to another is subject to liability for bodily harm caused to the other by one's failure to exercise due care in the performance of the undertaking. The court distinguishes a case where a host merely permits an intoxicated guest to "sleep it off" on the host's floor, stating such host does not thereby assume an open-ended duty to care for the guest and assess the guest's medical condition.
___

So, in Illinois at least, it seems you may be better off shoving a drunk out the door and into his car, rather than allowing him to sleep it off in your home. Lovely!
Actually, judging by the last paragraph you cited and which I left intact above, you're probably OK if you just let them crash on your floor, but if you put them in a bed, check on them a couple times, don't let others check in/call a hospital/call parents/take the person home, and stuff like that, then you're actively monitoring their situation and are then liable.

pravnik: MADD might have some weasel room in that they include liability for serving minors as one factor. From the link you provided, "Social host liability: statute or case law that imposes potential liability on social hosts as a result of their serving alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons or minors who subsequently are involved in crashes causing death or injury to third-parties." It's possible that some states might not have such laws regarding adults, but providing alcohol to a minor might be another matter entirely.

Dinsdale
01-06-2004, 11:39 AM
I'm disappointed in your lack of respect for my lawyering ability, ferret.

Surely you noted my intentional use of the weasel word "may" in a sentence clearly constructed with an aim to engender a possibly unwarranted emotional response... ;)

Also, I didn't check the MADD site, but I was quite surprised to see these (and other) cases in Ill. clearly denying liability in cases where ETOH was provided underage drinkers. Of course, such actions may well constitute criminal offenses...