Underage Drinking Parties and Social Host Liability

Underage Drinking Parties and Social Host Liability

I love my best friend’s son.  At eighteen he is a level headed kid on the fast track to being a successful writer/artist or maybe a rock star.  But like most kids, sometimes he comes up with amazingly risky ideas.   Like when he was ten he climbed up on top of the roof so he could see the fireworks or when he was 13 he hitchhiked to the beach, halfway across the state with his friends.  So I don’t know why she was so surprised when he came and asked if he and four friends could have an overnight pool party/backyard camp-out and have beer with their hamburgers and beans.  His father didn’t see a big problem with the idea at first, his parent’s had let him drink at home when he turned 18 and it was “just beer.”  None of the boys would be driving and they would only buy a few beers a piece for the party.   Thank goodness his mother thought past the initial idea.  She did some research online and this is part of what she found.

In many states, serving alcohol to any minor, even your child is illegal.  In some states you can allow your child to drink in your home.  In a few states, while it is illegal for a person under 21 to purchase alcohol it is legal to consume it if you are between 18 and 20.   Every state seems to have their own take on underage drinking laws so check out the laws in your state.

As the hosts of an underage drinking party, my friends would be responsible. End of statement.  Responsible for the health and welfare of the five participants, responsible for keeping the boys from driving and if one of the boys walked away from the property and got into any kind of trouble, they would be responsible for that too.  The boys planned some swimming and then a campfire after dark.   What if the boys got horsing around? Alcohol does lower inhibitions.  If someone got hurt or became ill from drinking too much, again they would be responsible.

If one of the boys did decide to run home to get something he forgot or just decided to go home to his own bed after the festivities were over, the consequences of driving drunk would be serious for both the boy driving but also for whomever he hit and would probably come back to his hosts.  And my friend’s insurance may or may not cover their liability if a guest at their party caused an accident while intoxicated.   Some policies cover this, but some don’t.  The circumstances would certainly be investigated and defense costs would likely be paid but what about a judgment?  They would need to check with both their homeowners company and also their own auto company to see what might be covered.  They could lose their savings, college funds, retirement funds and even their house if the accident were severe enough.  And this holds true for adult friends drinking in their home too. 

This was only part of what my friend found online about Social Host liability and underage drinking parties.  When she laid the information out to her son, showing him what the risks were, he decided waiting two and a half years until he was 21 wasn't all that bad.  It also opened up the conversation about drinking at his friend’s houses and drinking and driving.  Like I said, he is generally a pretty level headed kid.

If you have any concerns about how your insurance covers you in a particular situation, contact us through our website or at 877-352-2121.

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