When someone hosts a party or other social gathering, they have a responsibility. Not just for their guests’ well-being, but also for their guests’ conduct. This behavior is not just good etiquette. In certain states, including New Jersey, the law requires it. If something happens because of the drunken actions of a party guest, the victims of these actions might be able to hold the party’s host liable. Anyone in New Jersey could benefit from being aware of the social host liability laws in New Jersey. Here is some information on them.
What is Social Host Liability?
Social host liability is the principle that if someone organizes and invites people to a social gathering with alcoholic beverages, that person may be held responsible for what their guests do when they are drunk. This policy exists not to discourage people from enjoying themselves with these beverages. Instead, it discourages people from letting their friends get behind the wheel after consuming them. Driving while intoxicated causes too many injuries and takes too many lives every day. So social host liability seeks to curtail that.
NJ social host law is comparable to dram shop law, which also lists circumstances in which those who provide alcohol (in their case, an establishment) can be held liable for drunk driving accidents. However, dram shop law specifically affects licensed establishments. And this law applies most of the same principles to a private setting.
What is the Social Host Law in New Jersey?
Of course, this principle does not apply to every situation in which an intoxicated person over-drinks at a party and causes an accident on the road. New Jersey Statutes 2A:15-5.6 lists the more specific circumstances in which an accident victim could successfully make a case against a social host.
Firstly, the prosecution must prove that the host “willfully and knowingly provided alcoholic beverages” to someone who was “visibly intoxicated”. This definition means showing that the guest was not just already drunk, but clearly showing signs of being drunk. And the host let this guest continue consuming alcohol. Even if the guest was not visibly intoxicated “in the social host’s presence,” the host may still have to provide compensation if they were visibly intoxicated “under circumstances manifesting reckless disregard of” other people’s lives and property.
Additionally, prosecutors must also prove the host showed negligence. This may mean they kept serving the guest in question; or otherwise failed to exercise caution and limit an “unreasonable risk of foreseeable harm”. An example could be inviting someone for one last round of drinks before they leave the party, despite knowing that they plan to drive home.
Lastly, the injured party must prove that: 1) a visibly intoxicated person’s impaired driving caused their injury; and 2) the accused was a social host who provided alcohol to that same visibly intoxicated person. This string of direct connections is necessary for a victim to receive compensation.
Our Dram Shop Lawyers Can Help You With Social Host Cases
Social host liability exists to protect innocent people who suffered injuries or died as a result of someone else’s irresponsible alcohol consumption. If you or a loved one have suffered at the hands of the drunk driver, New Jersey law allows you to claim compensation; both from the driver and the party host who enabled them. The social host law NJ attorneys at the Law Offices of James C. DeZao, P.A. can provide professional advice and assistance in your personal injury case. Let us start helping you today and contact us at (973) 358-6134 for a free consultation.