HOW PARTY HOSTS CAN BE PUNISHED FOR A GUEST’S BLOOD ALCOHOL LEVEL

There are what’s called “social host liability” laws in some states which hold the host of a party or gathering responsible in situations where a guest becomes intoxicated and injures a third party. Social host liability is similar to dram shop laws. The difference is that dram shop laws impose liability only on sellers of alcoholic beverages (like bars, liquor stores and restaurants).

On the other hand, social host liability laws can be imposed on anyone who provides alcoholic beverages to guests (like the hosts of a house party) if he or she goes on to injure someone while intoxicated. While most states have dram shop laws, only a few – including New Jersey – have laws for social host liability. It’s very important to know your rights if you live in one of the states that do. Here’s our guide to how party hosts can be punished for a guest’s blood alcohol level.

Social Host Liability Laws in New Jersey

Social host liability laws usually apply equally to homeowners, renters of property, or anyone else who provides alcohol to a guest who gets inebriated and goes on to injure someone. Almost any private occasion, not just a party, can give rise to social host liability.

In some states, social host liability can only be imposed on people if they serve alcohol to underage minors. In New Jersey, however, an injured person can seek damages from any social host who provided alcohol to an intoxicated person (at a party or similar event) when that guest goes on to cause an alcohol-related accident.

The definition of “provided,” according to Section 2A:15-5.5 of the New Jersey Revised Statutes, includes self-service of alcohol at parties and alcohol that other guests might bring to a party.

  • In the state of New Jersey, a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater is considered “drunk.”

An injured person may seek damages from a social host if the social host provided alcohol to an intoxicated person who causes harm, and if:

  • The person was visibly intoxicated in the presence of the host, or
  • The beverages were provided “under circumstances manifesting reckless disregard of The consequences” to another, and
  • The circumstances created an “unreasonable risk” of harm to life or property, and
  • The injury resulted from a motor vehicle accident caused by the intoxicated person who was served by the social host.

Social Host Liability Law Damages

Liability in dram shop and social host cases is expressed solely in terms of money damages, paid by the defendant (or the defendant’s insurer) to the injured person. Common damages in these kinds of cases include:

  • Medical and hospital bills
  • Bills for rehabilitation or therapy
  • Lost wages
  • The value of household services and childcare the injured person would otherwise have performed
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering

New Jersey also allows those injured in dram shops filing a social host liability claim to seek punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are intended to punish particularly bad cases of wrongdoing, including gross negligence, recklessness or intentional bad behavior.

Social Host and Dram Shop Law Statute Of Limitations

Like other personal injury claims, a New Jersey dram shop or social liability claim must be filed within two years of the date or injury in order to be heard in court. If you need a dram shop or social host liability lawyer in New Jersey, contact The Law Offices of James C. DeZao today at (973) 358-6134
 for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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