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What is social host liability?

If you are a New Jersey parent who has teenaged children, you should think twice before letting them have a party in your home where alcohol will be available. FindLaw explains that New Jersey has a social host liability law that holds you responsible if any of your teenager’s guests becomes drunk at the party and then causes an accident on his or her drive home.

Neither you nor your teenager has to be serving the drinks. In fact, you do not even need to be present in the house while the party is going on. If you knew or should have known that alcohol would be available to the underage party guests, that is sufficient to make you responsible for their actions if they later cause property damage or death or bodily injury to themselves or others. Consequently, if someone files a personal injury or wrongful death suit against you, you could be required to pay thousands of dollars in damages.

Underage drinking, adult responsibility

In New Jersey, it is illegal for you to “furnish” alcohol to a minor. Furnishing includes not only deliberately serving alcoholic drinks to minors, but also negligently making them available, such as by means of an unlocked liquor cabinet. A social host is anyone who invites guests to a party or other social event wherever it is held. While your teenager is the actual social host of his or her own party, you, as your child’s parent, are the liable adult.

Your social host liability extends to the adult guests at your own parties as well. If you let a guest become intoxicated and he or she later drives home drunk and injures or kills someone, including himself or herself, the responsibility and liability are yours. This is general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice.

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