Can Someone be Held Liable for Serving Alcohol at a Party?
The short answer to this question is yes, but only in certain situations. This issue crops up most often when a guest at a party becomes intoxicated and then drives home, causing an accident. Social hosts can be held both criminally and civilly liable in cases where the driver was a minor, so if you were injured in an accident with a drunk driver, you may be able to collect damages for your injuries not only from the driver, but also from the person who served him or her alcohol. To learn more about your legal options, you should consider speaking with an auto accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Open House Parties
In Florida, it is unlawful to permit minors to consume or possess alcohol. This is always true, even when the alcohol was generally provided at a party. As long as a person had the authority to regulate or direct a residence, he or she can be held liable for injuries resulting from the minor’s actions. However, the injured party will also need to establish that:
- The social host permitted a gathering at his or her residence;
- Alcohol was consumed or possessed by a minor at the party;
- The host knew that a minor was in possession of or consuming an alcoholic beverage; and
- The host failed to take reasonable steps to prevent consumption of the beverage by the minor.
While this law most commonly involves charging the host of the party, the statute actually places a duty on anyone who is in control of the residence to take steps to prevent the consumption of alcohol by minors. This is even true if the host does not provide the alcohol him or herself, but asks guests to bring their own.
Criminal Penalties and Liability
Those who violate this law risk being charged with a first degree misdemeanor if another person was injured in an accident caused by the inebriated minor. This offense is punishable by up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. However, this is not the only penalty for providing alcohol to a minor, as the responsible party can be required to pay damages to those who were injured as a result of the minor’s conduct. Under the theory of negligence per se, a person can be found automatically negligent if:
- He or she violated a law;
- The law was designed to protect people from harm;
- The injured party was a member of the group that the law aimed to protect; and
- The defendant’s actions resulted in the kind of injury that the law specifically aimed to prevent.
A number of Florida courts have found that the Open Parties Law qualifies as a safety law and was designed to protect the public from being injured by a minor’s consumption of alcohol. This means that failing to prevent the consumption of alcohol by a minor at a party automatically satisfies the requirements of negligence per se and the at-fault party can be held legally responsible for resulting injuries.
Call Our Legal Team Today
If you were injured in an accident caused by an intoxicated underage driver, please contact Boone & Davis at 954-566-9919 to speak with one of our experienced car accident attorneys about your case. Our dedicated Fort Lauderdale legal team is eager to assist you today.