Hospitality in the form of food and drink may be offered to guests at private residences or commercial premises. This may also include alcoholic beverages. Hosts who serve alcohol can be held liable if the amount of alcohol consumed by the guest results in an accident that causes injuries. Driving under impairment is a serious offense and when an accident occurs, it can endanger not only the life of the impaired driver, but also that of co-passengers, others involved in the collision and road-users. The guests can also injure themselves while walking out, using elevators and staircases, slipping at the exits and thresholds etc. They may also choke on their vomit, fall down due to intoxication, become aggressive and get involved in fights etc.

The legal concept of “host liability” puts the responsibility and liability on the “host” (private and commercial) when a guest causes an accident due to alcohol or drug impairment. This is an evolving area of law and is still undergoing changes/amendments. When hosts were aware that the guest was intoxicated/impaired and failed to take necessary steps to prevent them from causing accidents to third parties and themselves, the host is held responsible for the actions of the guests.

Casual or social hosts are subject to less stringent liability, whereas commercial hosts have a greater duty to protect individuals.

Who is A Host?

There are several types of hosts – the commercial host, social host, hosts who organize events for fellow employees in a restaurant, etc.

Commercial hosts: Restaurant, bar, pub, club owners and their employees must ensure that guests do not harm themselves or others as a result of consuming alcohol purchased and served by the host. When guests appear intoxicated or the host knows that they are intoxicated, the host must ensure that they inform the guest/patron about their concerns, take preventive actions such as calling a cab, taking away the guest’s car keys, offering safe accommodation on the host’s premises and if all these fail, calling the police.

Social hosts: are those who don’t sell or serve alcohol for profit, in premises which are under their control. They are not the employers or connected in a professional way with the guests. In parties where it’s a BYOB (bring your own booze) situation, hosts are still liable since the premises belong to them. Social host liability falls in the area of “negligence” in law. It does not mean that hosts are prevented from serving alcohol – but it does mean that they must refrain from serving alcohol to a person who is already intoxicated. They must remain in control and vigilant at all times.

Safety Measures

Hosts take preventive actions based on foreseeable circumstances, the guest’s behavior and from reports of others around him/her. Hosts must control the environment, never serve liquor to minors. They need to meet/greet each guest personally to ensure that no drinks were consumed earlier, serve enough food to offset the influence of liquor, keep a list of cab-driver phone numbers handy and ensure that they remain in control of their own drinking.

An experienced personal injury lawyer can assist and advise you if you or a dear one has been injured in such situations.