What Is Social Host Liability?

What Is Social Host Liability?

by Jan 28, 2021

Imagine the following scenario: you have a few friends over for dinner on a Saturday evening. Before and during the meal, you serve your guests a few glasses of wine. After your guests leave, one of them gets into an auto accident on the way home and injures someone. The cause of the accident is determined to be that your guest was driving intoxicated.

Now, here’s the question, are you liable for the accident and injuries because you served the alcohol to that guest?

In California, the answer is generally no, you can not be held liable. But there are a couple important exceptions.

California Social Host Liability Laws

California law significantly limits third-party liability for alcohol-related accidents. California Civil Code section 1714 explicitly states that:

The furnishing of alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries resulting from intoxication, but rather the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted by an intoxicated person.

The language of this law essentially absolves bars, restaurants, and party hosts of liability for the actions of guests and customers who legally consume alcohol (whether bought or given) on their premises. In other words, if you choose to legally consume alcohol, you can’t blame the person who gave and/or sold it to you for any injuries you cause.

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Exceptions To Social Host Liability Laws

The two most important exceptions to California’s social host liability laws both apply to minors.

The first exception is if any parent or guardian purposefully gives alcohol to someone they know (or reasonably should know) is under twenty-one years old. In this case, when the furnishing of alcoholic beverages is found to be the “proximate cause” of resulting injuries or death, the host may be held liable.

The second exception applies to businesses that serve alcohol. Any business that knowingly serves alcohol to a minor who is “obviously intoxicated” can be held civilly liable (but not criminally liable) for injuries that minor causes in which intoxication is found to be the proximate cause.

Basically, if parents or businesses knowingly give alcohol to kids under twenty-one, and those kids go out and cause injuries to other people because they’re drunk, it’s possible for the parents or businesses to be held liable.

When Do You Need A Lawyer?

Unless you purposefully gave alcohol to someone under twenty-one who has caused an injury to someone else, you probably don’t need a lawyer.

California’s social host liability laws very clearly put the responsibility for injuries caused due to intoxication on the person who caused the injuries, not the person or people who provided the alcohol.

If you are worried about your responsibility, contact us today for a free phone consultation.


At Quinnan Law, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 540-2356.

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