Social Host Liability for Underage Drinking

July 13, 2018 9:23 am


It is that time of year for graduation parties.  While graduation is a time for celebration, graduation parties, as well as other house parties, can create potential liability for the host.

Imagine, your daughter is graduating from high school and you are throwing a graduation open house in your backyard. You hire a DJ, a caterer, and stock the bar with a keg and other spirits. You invite friends and family to celebrate. Your daughter’s high school friends attend. Some of the underage friends help themselves to the bar. They leave the party and cause an accident. Are you liable?

The Michigan Liquor Control Code of 1998, also known as the Dram Shop Act, provides that the furnishing of alcohol to a person under the age of 21 is per se unlawful. To establish a claim for social host liability the injured party must show that (1) the social host knowingly furnished alcohol to a person under 21; and (2) that the underage drinker’s consumption of alcohol caused injury or death to another.

Turning a blind eye to underage drinking at one’s party is not enough to insulate the social host from liability. The “knowingly” requirement includes a failure to make diligent inquiry or good faith effort to determine whether a person is underage. Further, the term “furnished” has been interpreted broadly. Simply supplying alcohol and making it available may be enough to meet this element. For there to be liability, there is no requirement that the underage drinker show signs of visible intoxication. There is also no exception for underage family members.

There is no social host liability for furnishing alcohol to persons over the age of 21.

Pursuit of a dram-shop claim requires knowledge of the Dram Shop Act’s unique requirements, such as the shortened period of limitation, the notice requirement and name and retain. Failure to comply with the Act’s requirements could result in a dismissal of the claim. If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a drunk driver, you need an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable about the Dram Shop Act. The attorneys at Hohauser Kuchon have both the experience and knowledge to successfully handle and pursue your dram shop claim. Hohauser Kuchon has been successful in pursuing these types of claims and obtaining significant results for our clients. If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a drunk driver, you should contact Hohauser Kuchon to protect and pursue your rights. At Hohauser Kuchon, we practice law with strength and honor. We are here to help you.

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