Are you responsible if guests drive drunk?

Labor Day is behind us and the holiday season is approaching. With so many parties in the near future, hosts should be aware of their liability in potentially dangerous situations. On Labor Day weekend, the MBC blog explained if you can be held liable when your guests drive home under the influence.

Originally posted on the Messina Bulzomi Christensen blog.

Labor Day weekend is upon us. It’s time to say goodbye to summer. How will you celebrate? Backyard barbecue? Pool party? A little fun in the sun? Whatever you choose, you’ll probably be relaxing with a cold beer, margarita or other refreshing cocktail while in the company of friends. What happens if you’re hosting the party and one of your guests decides to drive after drinking and causes an accident on his or her way home? Can you be held responsible for injuries to their victims? After all, they were at your party, drinking your alcohol and you let them leave, right? You were the social host?

drinking beer

Not so fast. There is a law called social host liability. It differs from state to state, but in Washington State, the host of a party is liable for third party injuries only if the guest is a minor. There is no social host liability resulting from injuries suffered by or caused by an adult guest to a third party. An adult guest is responsible for his or her own behavior.

This is not the case however if the alcohol is provided with motive or pecuniary gain (commercially, such as at a bar or restaurant) or is provided by an entity with a special relationship with the guest (such as an employer at an office party). In that case, the host, which would be the business holding the event, would be liable, this would be considered dram shop liability in Washington State. Visit the practice areas on our website at for more information on dram shop liability.

Here is more information about dram shop liability state to state:

National Conference of State Legislatures

Mother’s Against Drunk Driving

Nolo

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